Letters: Response to ”Smashing Socialism’ protests show political divide’

Guest Author

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Dear Collegian,


Political division and the tendencies of people to isolate themselves within their ideological bubbles have become such fixtures of our modern journalistic discourse that they have almost become media tropes themselves. While it is undeniable that the country as a whole is greatly divided, I want to push back against the idea that people attending Friday’s protest against the TWP and Charlie Kirk were fundamentally unwilling to bridge political divides and talk with one another.

I’m a member of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, (one of the groups that was tabling outside of the Kirk event) and that name might suggest to readers that I’m unwilling  to listening to the opinions of those who don’t share my views. However, our explicit goal in tabling and protesting that night were to show solidarity against neo-nazis and make it clear that they aren’t welcome at CSU (which we did quite well), and to have open political conversation about democratic socialism with anyone who wanted to talk. What I witnessed at the protest shows that these aims were achieved.

I can’t speak for every protester that was out, but my and other YDSA members’ experience at the protest was of about two hundred people engaged in a spirit of open, and impassioned, debate, community solidarity, and joy in the face of violent hatred from the alt-right. At the YDSA table, we talked for over three and a half hours with small business owners, staunch capitalists, socialists, anarchists, liberals, libertarians, and conservatives who wanted to discuss what democratic socialism means. Not only were these conversations interesting, they helped actually change people’s perspectives. Our discussions were just that, not conflicts or screaming matches, but dialogues had in good faith with people curious and eager to talk to those who had radically different interpretations of politics.

We didn’t avoid passion, either. We talked with people about seriously divisive issues like police brutality, the power of the 1%, income inequality, universal healthcare, a democratically run economy, climate change and our response to it, U.S. imperialism, immigration, and how capitalism undermines human rights. Rather than being unable to hear opposing arguments over the ringing noise of our ideological echos, the vast majority of conversations that I witnessed and had were quite positive.

Were we merely protesting and not willing to listen to Kirk? Absolutely not. The coalition of activists that I worked with all reserved tickets for themselves and others that wanted to attend. In fact, most of us wanted to go in. Unfortunately for us, the doors were locked before we could go in and ask Kirk the kinds of questions that we were discussing outside.

By talking and debating these issues on equal ground, those of us outside showed a greater commitment to dialogue and overcoming partisanship than Kirk himself. Kirk spoke from a podium and didn’t invite any liberal or leftist speakers to engage him in open debate. That is what allowed him to claim that white privilege is a racist myth without much pushback from the crowd instead of discussing what it is and why so many experience unequal treatment and opportunities based on their race. Those of us outside were able to talk about these issues and make real connections with one another.

Protesters were able to have these kinds of conversations not in spite of their emotions, but because of them. In his recent column, Ryan Tougaw claimed that emotion in politics is what allows neo-nazis to believe the sorts of things that they do, and that we should strive for an “objective” kind of politics. However, politics are inherently subjective. The values and identities which we bring into politics are subjective, and an attempt to make them objective is to define one subjective value as universally good/normal. Emotion is what motivates and enables us to be political actors, not what makes politics impossible.

Larson Ross

Senior, Political Science

Young Democratic Socialists of America member


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