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By Bradley Horowitz

Binghamton University has made headlines through the recent controversies surrounding political activism. It started with the protests at the Columbus Day Parade, in which protesters blocked the parade route. Their goal was to draw attention to the maintenance of the county jail. Republican Mayor Rich Davis and his party responded by announcing a new bill that originally proposed fining and imprisoning anyone who was threatening or annoying a first responder. The Columbus statue located near City Hall was vandalized earlier this year by an unknown perpetrator.

On November 14th, two conservative groups tabled outside on the “Spine” – the BU College Republicans and Binghamton’s Turning Point USA chapter. The College Republicans were advertising an upcoming lecture by Art Laffer, a former economist for the Reagan Administration. Turning Point USA was advertising its organization with posters, some of which included a pro-gun stance. This event began a half-hour after a California high school shooting made news. A group of protesters arrived to argue against the Republicans, which is when the discourse escalated into a shouting match. The following Monday, Laffer came to speak. Instead of a productive talk by Laffer, a large group of protesters disrupted the event. Their goal was to protest the Trump Administration’s policies towards incarceration.  

I will not deny that there were tensions between groups during my time as a student. The Spine was always a place in which people showed up with posters, music, and speaking events for various causes. I can still remember when Humanities professors gathered on a podium by the library to discuss President Trump’s immigration policies. This is different, however. There were no disruptions at any of these past political engagements. I just want to say this to most of the parties involved in these events: GROW THE HELL UP.

To the city’s Republican political leaders, how on Earth could you think that imprisoning protesters is a good response to activism? We already have laws where you cannot threaten anyone, police officers included. Instead of trying to reach out to your constituents, you decided to exacerbate a tenuous situation. Apparently civil disobedience and tolerance for opposing viewpoints means very little to you.

To the protesters at the Columbus Day Parade, I will not say whether you were correct in bringing attention to conditions at the county jail since I have little information on the facts. It is your right to protest peacefully which, according to most news sources, you did. What I cannot condone is vandalism of public property, especially something as ultimately meaningless as a Christopher Columbus statue. If anyone knows their history, it becomes apparent that Columbus did very little in the founding of America. On the opposite side, he was not as evil as revisionists have made him out to be. The people who want to love him or hate him are mindless idiots going along with what their social circles tell them to believe. I do not know if any of the protesters at the parade were involved in the wanton destruction of government property, but those responsible should feel ashamed of themselves. 

To Turning Point, I do not believe you intended your tabling to become an immediate response to a shooting. It was only a short period of time after the shooting happened. However, it is likely that students may have interpreted it that way, which could explain the anger shown by protesters. Young America’s Foundation uploaded a video of the protests on YouTube, titled “Crazed Leftists Mob Conservative Students at Binghamton University.” (To YAF: that is a cheap way of garnering views and it only encourages tribalism. Show some respect for those who are worried about the rising tide of school shootings and for anyone who has been affected by these crimes.) Stop trying to pander to the community that guns are under danger. If LBJ could not pass a gun restriction law in the aftermath of Robert Kennedy’s assassination, I highly doubt that change is coming our way. Recent shootings in schools have shown that background checks are not enough. Propose something else rather than a simple “guns are an American right and left-wing individuals are foolish” message.  

To the left-wing activists who were present at the tables and those who attended the Laffer talk, you are a disgrace to the community. I can understand the intense feelings you may have felt about what appeared to be an insensitive jab at a recent school shooting, but how dare you decide to disrupt the event not with words, but with theft. Yes, it is theft when a few of your members stole the table belonging to the Republicans and the crowd applauded them. You then proceeded to insult the members of the group, including calling a freshman “dumb.” The campus police had to be called in to prevent further escalation. What better way to try to convince an opposing side that they are wrong than by creating a hostile environment? As for the disruptive actions at the lecture, you sunk even lower. For starters, what exactly does Laffer have to do with incarceration? He was an economist specifically tasked by Ronald Reagan to look at taxes and government revenue. At no point during the protesters’ ramblings did anyone cite Laffer’s actual impact on incarceration. That is because the goal was not foster awareness about serious issues, but rather to drown out opposition through bullying tactics. You saw the description of Laffer as a former advisor to Ronald Reagan and decided that “Hey. We, as progressives, hate Trump. Trump is a Republican. Laffer is a Republican, so let us protest the lecture!” Congratulations, not only did you waste everyone’s time, but you made everyone in that room less intelligent since no one could reflect on what Laffer wanted to speak about.

Out of all the organizations I have criticized here, only the parade protesters and the Binghamton conservative students showed restraint in promoting their views. The city’s majority party, YAF, and the left-wing students took no responsibility for their respective actions and instead, blamed the other side for what they perceived to be wrong with society. The issues presented here – free speech, mass incarceration, the legacy left by public officials, and gun ownership – are not going to be resolved anytime soon. Thanks to these incidents, our society is nowhere closer to finding an answer.

How can we solve this? A good starting point is to have basic decency. Put yourself in the shoes of another. You can learn something by envisioning what your opponents want. Do not dehumanize them; that only leads to hate. It would also be great if teachers, who are crucial in our education, step up and object to the all the parties’ respective actions. I fail to see why Binghamton professors do not band together for a civil debate on all the issues facing the community in a similar fashion to what they did when Trump enacted his immigration policies. Educators are social workers, and their jobs include encouraging stability and tolerance. As far as I can tell, no professor has called for this, especially with the disruption created by the Progressive Party, although this is no surprise considering that the Humanities are dominated by liberally-minded individuals. Perhaps it is up to moderate students to create initiatives that strive for respectful disagreements. We all want the same thing anyway – to work together for a better tomorrow.

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