SAD! Freedom of Speech and Artistic Expression in the Trump Era


It seems that every few weeks a new incident occurs on a college campus in the United States, when students and others are silenced for using their First Amendment rights. At the start of February, the University of California, Berkeley, had to cancel a speech by the now disgraced Milo Yiannopoulos due to a riot started by liberal students, which quickly got out of hand when a fire started on campus.

At Middlebury College, liberal students protested and shut down a speech by a conservative speaker. These incidents led conservative talking heads like Tomi Lauren, Glenn Beck, and the cast of Fox and Friends to start calling college campuses safe havens for “special liberal snowflakes.”  

Over the weekend, Moravian College experienced its own incident when political artwork was destroyed. The artwork in question depicted the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, as “the epitome of evil” as the artist put it. This time it wasn’t a “special liberal snowflake” who couldn’t handle an alternative viewpoint.

The artwork entitled “SAD!” (pictured here, at the bottom of a trash barrel) was painted by senior Jessica Donavan. She was motivated to create the artwork because of her belief that Trump  “is a danger to my life and to my rights.”  Donovan quickly came under fire for her artwork shortly after it was hung up in the HUB last week.  

The school received numerous complaints from parents and students that denounced the display of the artwork. After a few days of being displayed in the HUB the artwork was stolen and later on found in a garbage can by Campus Safety, ripped in half.

The situation has left me perplexed and led me to think for quite some time, not only about the protests at UC Berkeley and Middlebury but also about the actions here at Moravian.

For starters: to anyone who blamed the College for allowing the artwork to be hung up, you do know the College administration has no say in what’s hung up in the HUB, right?  In fact the artwork in question is a student’s and therefore deserves a spot on campus to be displayed.  

Secondly, to the cowards who stole artwork of a fellow student, do you have any decency?  I can’t think of anyone who has ever felt the need to destroy artwork because it doesn’t fit their political view. Oh, wait, yes I can. Their names are as follows: Kim Jong Un, Joseph Stalin, and Joseph Goebbels, not exactly the group you want to fit in with. I know you’re not out here repressing anyone like the previously mentioned have, but you are, in fact, repressing a fellow student’s rights. Furthermore, due to the subject matter of the artwork you’re sending a clear signal to others that their rights are also alienable and do not matter in your eyes.

The violation of the First Amendment is the greatest threat that democracy can face. It doesn’t matter if someone’s views don’t reflect your own; you simply cannot violate someone’s right to the freedom of speech. It doesn’t matter if someone claims that gays shouldn’t have rights. It doesn’t matter if they’re defending pedophiles. It just doesn’t matter because EVERYONE is entitled to their freedom of speech in the United States. No matter how vile you think someone’s words and thoughts are, as long as they don’t commit a hate crime they can say whatever they want.

That’s what makes America special: we CAN criticize our leaders, our press, and our neighbors, but as soon as you attack them by destroying their property and their right to speak out you become the lowest form of human. It doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal or a conservative; you have a right to protest, to speak up, but you do NOT have the right to silence others.  

This applies to both the liberals who riot and shut down speakers and conservatives who destroy artwork all because they don’t agree with it. GROW UP!  You’re acting like children in Kindergarten who have to destroy some other kid’s Lego house because they used a different color brick than you did.  I’m not asking you to agree and sing Kumbaya around a fire; I’m asking you to have some respect and not infringe upon other individuals’ civil liberties.  

It doesn’t matter how you feel about Donald Trump. What does matter is that you respect your fellow students and have a dialogue about your discrepancies. The nation as a whole has become far too polarized, where if we don’t agree with one thing someone says, we can’t be bothered to listen to them at all. The quickest way to become a complete idiot is to shelter yourself from any opposing view. If both sides continue to ignore the ideas of the other, then the country and basic democracy will fall to the wayside.   

In short, we have to pull ourselves together, hear each other out, and understand that while we may disagree with someone their opinion is still valid and important. If someone else’s worldview threatens yours, then maybe your worldview isn’t so strong. If you have to resort to crime to get your “point” across, maybe your “point” isn’t worth anything at all. If you have to silence others and take away their civil liberties to protect your thoughts and opinions, then maybe they aren’t worth having in the first place.  
I’m sure many of you will disagree with my opinion, but you know what? That’s the great thing about the United States. You can write me a comment or email me. Just don’t use an ad hominem attack against me. It only proves how weak and unstable your argument is.