I have never written an op-ed that had any kind of significant political commentary in it. My niche has always been articles that are geared towards helping people live better lives, particularly Drexel students. I’ve written the occasional article criticizing or praising Drexel for various reasons, but that was always as far as I have been willing to stray outside of what I believe to be my area of expertise. However, this Monday I decided to go outside my comfort zone and sat down and committed to watching a few hours of live news coverage of the protests, as well as the address that President Trump gave. After viewing all that, when I sat down to write my weekly op-ed, I was initially going to write what essentially would have been a review of Drexel’s first fully virtual term, but it felt morally wrong to put something as minor as that ahead of the turmoil surrounding the never-ending conflict of race in this country that is now coming to a tipping point.
Back in February, I wrote an article titled “Don’t be afraid to listen to the opposition.” It was primarily a response to an essay I read on cancel culture, and my main argument was that we need to not just hear others, but also listen. That concept has never felt more relevant to me than now.
I heard the President’s speech and I listened to every word. Every single one. It really did feel like I was watching a movie. I’ve heard about his inflammatory rhetoric, but prior to Monday, I hadn’t ever given one of his speeches my full attention from start to finish so I was taken aback by just how inflammatory his rhetoric actually was. While I wasn’t disturbed by it too much, that was mainly because I watched it while I was sitting on my living room couch with my family. I received his message in a calm environment, so I was able to at the very least understand what his intent was and where he was coming from. I respectfully disagree with his approach, his delivery, and the surface goal of his message, which seemed to be to paint himself as the one to bring law and order to the chaos. For what it was meant to do, the split-screen of him speaking while the peaceful protestors were pushed back by soldiers and police truly had a cinematic effect on me as an audience.
Though that is only my perspective. After I’d finished watching, I couldn’t help imagining what the effect was like for people who were viewing it in a more tension-filled and irrational environment, like the streets of the major cities. Emotions were running high and the last thing any of those people needed to hear from their leader was that kind of address.
“A person exercising power or control in a cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary way.” That is the definition of a tyrant and while I hate to use such a term, that is what I witnessed on TV. Our president utilized his power against his own people just for a photo-op at St. John Episcopal Church. This is already a point that has been beaten to death by media in the hours following the event, but when you think about it within the context, it’s truly a hard pill to swallow. I don’t see how I can’t condemn the actions that he took. If his goal was to incite more chaos, then he succeeded.
Enough about our President’s actions though, he has been in the limelight enough as it is. Watching a few hours of the protests was something that I can only describe as being surreal. Even in the midst of a pandemic, there are people on this earth who are willing to risk their health in order to fight for what they believe in. There are many things that have inspired me in my short lifetime, but this was one of those special moments of inspiration where you get that sudden urge to just take a crack at something that you have been putting off, either because you’re too afraid of it or just lazy.
I will also make the distinction that many other level-headed individuals have made through these days of continued protests. I support people going out and peacefully protesting. I do not support riots, as they are almost always inherently violent in nature and cause a disturbance of the peace. What I saw on TV was peaceful protesting, plain and simple. I’m not ignorant or denying the existence of individuals and groups of people that are using the protesting as an opportunity to commit criminal acts. They are out there doing those things, that is a fact, but they only need to be acknowledged to the point where they can be dealt with accordingly. They do not need to be acknowledged so much that they take away from the focus of the narrative that the peaceful protestors are trying to create.
Anarchists are slipping into these protests for the sole purpose of turning them violent in an attempt to shift the narrative, and if you don’t believe that then I would say you have too much faith in humanity. Whenever there is a strong movement gaining ground, there will always be those who oppose it either because they have something to gain from taking up the role of the opposition, or because they simply disagree with the ideals of said movement. That is simply the nature of how movements work and what better way to actively undermine a movement you don’t support than to take of the role of the saboteur masquerading as the ally.
As I sit in my room writing this from my bed, I can’t help thinking that I should’ve been out there on the streets of Philadelphia alongside everyone, protesting for change that will benefit our country and the greater human race at large. Though like many others, I’m not the type of individual that prefers to go out and protest on the streets. I won’t deny that it is the most active form of protest and arguably the most effective based on what we’ve seen in human history, but it’s not the form that best suits me in the present moment. I can be a stronger help to the cause through my skill as a writer and that is something I encourage every single person that reads this to do.
Whether it’s posting on social media, talking with friends and family, joining different online forums for discussion or going outside and using your physical presence, take the medium you are most comfortable with and do something to help this movement. I’m not of the mindset that many have where silence is synonymous with being complicit with the problem. I see the logic behind that way of thinking and it makes sense to a degree, but I disagree with it because I think it ignores some of the nuances of the situation. However, if you are silent, please take the time to ask yourself why that is. Are you silent because you are indeed complicit with the issue? Is it because you don’t know what to say in such a sensitive time where words are everything? Or is it because you’re afraid to speak even though you do want to help? Once you identify the reason for your silence, then you will be able to contribute to the conversation.
We need more voices to speak out against injustice against black people in this country. You might think that your voice is too small or won’t reach enough people, but even if it reaches a single person, it could be the motivation that person needs to get involved and they will by extension reach out to someone else and get them involved, and from there you’ll have helped amass a whole group of people under one common cause. Remember, nobody rules this world, nobody owns it. The political figures we call “leaders” are not our rulers unless we allow them to be. Right now, I see us living in a country that is on the verge of having a ruler, but there is nothing stopping us from shifting the scale and taking back the power. It only takes one person to create change, good or bad, and that is what I saw on the TV. Two sides clashing to create change. What the outcome will be remains to be seen.