By Joe Lehmann | VIRGINIA
Anais Nin once wrote “Love never dies a natural death. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.” The same thing is happening to American civil liberties.
History is repeating itself: in 2001, in response to 9/11, there was a fight to abridge the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments. In the wake of the violence at the Alt-Right protest in Charlottesville, there is a danger of people wanting to abridge the First Amendment. Substitute “Love” with “justice.” Terror and violence are the errors and the betrayals. Hate and intolerance are the witherings and tarnishings. When people are afraid, ignorant, or hateful, they want to make whatever they do not like go away. This is a danger that cannot be ignored.
I would like to make clear: I hate Nazis and I despise everything that the alt-right was protesting for. Having said that, they still have a right to their opinion and a right to protest. If we as a society say that “I hate Nazis. They are not allowed to talk anymore. If they do, we can attack them,” it sets a dangerous precedent. If we start criminalizing thoughts and encouraging violence, the free exchange of ideas slowly dies and lives are put at risk. Two examples: first, the death of a woman as a result of a man driving through protesters because of hate. Second, the injuries that were a result of riots against Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley. Both of these examples were caused by hate and an unwillingness to sit down and have civil discourse. When we reject debate in exchange for oppression and violence, we begin to unravel the very fabric of American society. That unraveling results in both the death of justice and the jeopardizing of human life.
You may not agree with the Alt-Right, or CAIR, or BLM, but that is okay, nothing is agreed on by everyone. Disagreement is vital to the success of the American republic. But disagreement that puts natural rights and indeed lives in danger is unacceptable. We can not allow the light of justice to succumb to the darkness of ignorance, intolerance, and hate. To people of all ideologies: reject political violence, discuss intelligently, and stay safe. That is how you change the world.