First Amendment at stake in Charlottesville

PALO ALTO, California, U.S.A. – I hate to see people in 2017 still defending the Confederate flag and Confederate statues, denying that black lives matter, and insisting that the definition of American is a white, Christian male.
It’s dehumanizing, it’s inconsiderate, and it goes against my entire bottom line.

But for me, the violence at the Charlottesville protests isn’t just about ideology. It isn’t about where the alt-rights are wrong or right and where the liberal counter protestors are wrong or right.
We have always had people on both “sides” of our nation’s issues, including in the question that seems to be at the core of American politics today: whether
diversity beyond the white, Christian, male “true Americans” is a benefit or a threat to our country.

But it’s about something more fundamental than that – our right to disagree is at stake.
According to Vox, after President Barack Obama’s election, more people became resentful and the number of “patriot groups” went from about 150 in 2008 to 1,360 in 2012.
President Donald Trump’s rhetoric has legitimized these views and at the same time, a large socially liberal movement – now a resistance – has thrived.
Here in California, I’ve been constantly exposed to messages about the toxicity of gender norms, the limiting stereotypes associated with race, the need to humanize refugees and immigrants, and the urgency for affirmative action, all in the past few years.
Due to the rise of the internet, selective media consumption, and our social media blue-feed bubbles (like mine) and red-feed bubbles, we’ve become increasingly polarized
and our views are only confirmed more easily.
Though many people self-identify as open-minded and accepting of all views, I think we’ve become cynical and hypocritical, and actually feel more afraid and threatened by the
idea of political dissenters than ever before.
Our right to disagree is at stake because what happened in Charlottesville demonstrates that, wow, we as a country have a long way to go, and that right now, we can’t have people who are openly on two sides of our political spectrum be in one place and simply just coexist. It wasn’t just the car – demonstrators were pepper spraying one another.
The First Amendment was created, I think, because the Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that if we were ever to disagree, we could speak safely, gather without consequence,
and disagree in peace.
And that’s all that was supposed to happen in Charlottesville. They came to speak, gather, and disagree. But none of what happened in the end was safe, inconsequential, or peaceful. It was the opposite: violent and heartbreaking. The scary thing is that it isn’t just Charlottesville.
Though the degree of atrocity and violence varies, it happens everywhere, even the hippie liberal University of California campus in Berkeley.
There’s a lot of controversy going on here in Silicon Valley right now around the Google manifesto. There’s going to be an alt-right protest, and a counter protest to resist the alt-right protest and in response to what happened to Charlottesville.
I don’t know if I’d be willing to go. I’m worried it will be adversarial. I don’t know if I will even be safe, or if this is the right way to respond to Charlottesville.
As far as responding to Charlottesville, I have no idea where to start. It’s ridiculous that this is even happening, that the most fundamental rights upon which America was founded
are being challenged and met with violence, hatred and bigotry.
Some say the United States of America is the greatest nation in the world. But if we can’t even speak out without risking our lives, then we aren’t much better than Turkey or China or Saudi Arabia or the rest of the places that aren’t really free.
And if, instead of listening to the other side, we further pit ourselves against each other, we aren’t United after all.
Shannon Yang is a Junior Reporter at Youth Journalism International.
See more viewpoints on Charlottesville from Youth Journalism
International students around the U.S. From Connecticut, Max Turgeon writes
that what
happened there will make America stronger
. From Iowa, Garret Reich urges
America to take
a good look at itself and respond peacefully.
Georgia, Madeleine Deisen describes
attending a rally
in support of the peaceful counter protesters and victims
of violence in Charlottesville.
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