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Vander Graaff: Protesting ‘Culture War’ is a moral obligation

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Part of the reason we go to college is to become well rounded, active members of society. Being an active citizen means voting, attending community events and, most importantly, speaking up when you feel that something is wrong. 

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Brought here by Turning Point USA, the “Culture War” tour has drawn controversy, and anyone who feels strongly about this event should also feel morally obligated to protest it in some way.

Turning Point USA is a conservative student organization that was founded by Charlie Kirk in 2012. In a Letter to the Editor, representatives from the CSU chapter of the organization claimed that drawing a connection between TPUSA and racist organizations and racist actions was inaccurate, despite accounts from The New Yorker and various other media outlets of alleged racial bias and unethical campaign involvement.

Peacefully protesting this event is an opportunity for campus social movements, such as the #NotProudToBe movement, to continue to highlight the racist practices of the University. After forming in response to a series of racial bias incidents on campus, the #NotProudToBe movement protesting this event could be a crucial step in focusing media attention toward these issues. 

It’s true that events like these shouldn’t typically get any attention. But to stay silent about Charlie Kirk and Donald Trump Jr.’s harmful ideologies would be to condone their presence on this campus — which is exactly what they want. 

Open discussion and varying opinions are something our country desperately needs, and we must listen to the thoughts of others. But with the words “Culture War” in the name, nothing about this event is collaborative. Rather, it incites deeper polarization and hides behind false ideals of “diversity” and “free speech” to do so.

To stay silent about Charlie Kirk and Donald Trump Jr.’s harmful ideologies would be to condone their presence on this campus — which is exactly what they want.

The website for the event lists prohibited items, such as sticks, poles or bats and “tactical gear including … helmets, body armor, shields, etc.,” and it notes that rules are “subject to change without notice.”

TPUSA wants to create conflict, but as my colleague Fynn Bailey notes, it seems like they specifically expect their events to instigate violent protests. In this way, fear works to discourage people from speaking out against the event, keeping protestors from creating valuable and necessary counterarguments to far-right ideologies.

This is not to say that students should by any means put themselves in a dangerous situation. 

In 2018, when white nationalist Richard Spencer spoke at Michigan State University, community members organized a “Celebration of Diversity Festival” as an alternative to attending and directly protesting the dangerous event where multiple people were arrested.

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There are more ways to protest than standing outside with a picket sign and yelling at a group that is literally across the aisle from you. Students can give gallery input at the Associated Students of CSU meetings, write letters to the editor, post on social media or contact Turning Point USA directly. 

By protesting this event in an informed and peaceful manner, members of the CSU community have the opportunity to expose the racism and other issues that have been a part of our campus tradition for too long. We have the opportunity to show the world what CSU should be about — integrity and civic engagement.

Bailey is right — people who represent hateful and polarizing ideals shouldn’t get any attention. But we also can’t afford to condone their actions.

Instead, harmful ideas should be shut down immediately and should not be offered a space in our campus — and national — dialogue.

Abby Vander Graaff can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @abbym_vg.

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