Us vs. Them

Freedom of speech refers to people’s right to express themselves without being restricted by the government. The Founding Fathers loved the term— and the first amendment is usually the easiest amendment to remember. In America, other than the good old restriction of being prohibited from falsely yell “fire” at a crowded theater, freedom of speech is seen as a necessity, rather than a privilege. Freedom of speech is simple and the constraints to it are reasonable and agreed among everyone. Except they are not.

On college campuses freedom of speech is tricky. We live in a day and age where universities gloat about their diversity and ability to connect students from different cultural backgrounds, religion, sexual orientation and so on. There has been constant backlash between different demographics and their opinions regarding society. Some of them are inoffensive, like the opinion that the Patriots should not have won the Super Bowl one more time. While others bring into question where we can establish a concise line between strong controversial opinions, offensive comments and hate speech.

Freedom of speech has played a magnificent role in the media in the context of politics. Unsurprisingly, according to the Washington Post, U.S. President Trump signed an executive order to ensure that colleges are not restricting freedom of speech for students on campuses. While conservative college students considered this a victory towards the Republican agenda, Trump guaranteed to limit federal funding for universities that violated the executive order.  

Despite it sounding like Trump is trying to give certain political “advantages” to young Republicans, such headlines should not have been that controversial. First, because Trump should not receive a pat on the back for trying to enforce the presence of the first amendment in institutions that already follow it. Second, because freedom of speech or lack thereof, should be a bipartisan issue at this point since freedom of speech affects all of us regardless of political ideology. Third, because there is no feasible way to enforce something that is loosely defined as freedom of speech, which could be interpreted differently for each individual. Perhaps, the major lesson in Trump’s executive order fiasco is to have the ability to learn to see the situation beyond a Trump vs Hillary or Republicans vs Democrats issue, but rather as a way to encounter a middle ground between freedom of speech in the two polarizing sides.

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