EDITORIAL: Understanding protests, understanding each other needed

Build Bridges

Herald Editorial Board

The Issue: Following the election of Donald Trump, several cities and campuses across the United States have responded in protest, including WKU.

Our Stance: The right to peaceful protest is as American as apple pie and we stand by that right. In the wake of this historic election, we advocate reaching across the aisle and plead for empathy and real dialogue. However, there are some behaviors and ideals we cannot afford to normalize.

Voters from across the U.S. went to the polls last Tuesday to cast their ballots. Later that night, we huddled in front of our televisions and kept refreshing Twitter on our phones as we eagerly awaited for the results to surprise us like presents on Christmas.

Come Wednesday morning, we unwrapped our presents to discover Donald Trump had become our president-elect. Some were elated with the gift while others were dismayed, as if they had received a lump of coal but instead fearful.

Anti-Trump protests have erupted all across the country in cities such as Washington D.C., San Francisco, Manhattan, New York and Los Angeles. In Portland, Oregon, 71 protesters were arrested during a demonstration and one protester was shot and injured, according to The Oregonian.

WKU has not been immune to the reach of protests either. Protesters gathered in front of Pearce-Ford Tower last Wednesday night, and it soon drew the attention of campus police and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. Five people were arrested “or failure to disperse and disorderly conduct.

Marianna Baker was one of the protesters who was arrested. Baker told a Herald reporter she thought the protest was necessary for people to express their feelings about the election.

“I think it was needed; I don’t think it was violent in any way,” Baker said. “I think it was some people coming together to express their opinion in a very intense time.”

It’s unsavory to see something that started off as a space for students to come together in solidarity erupt into yelling and the grabbing and tearing of flags. The Herald won’t stand to see this campus turn to violence.

Yet, these protests are not surprising because some people are afraid. People of color are afraid, Muslims are afraid, Hispanics are afraid, LGBT folks are afraid and women are afraid. The Bowling Green Police Department is investigating possible hate crimes in the form of threats and vandalized property, according to the Daily News.

The Washington Post reported an increase in the calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline following the election results. Between 1 and 2 a.m. last Wednesday, the lifeline rang 660 times.

People have moved past Republican or Democrat into life or death. How can we expect people to just “get over it?” Get over it? Trump campaigned on dividing people. Implementing an (unconstitutional) nationwide stop-and-frisk policy, banning Muslims from entering the U.S. in an attempt to curb terrorism, building a literal wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and threatening to weaken the First Amendment’s protection of a free press.

Honestly, Trump’s been going back on so many of his campaign promises we can’t definitively say what he believes, which is terrifying in and of itself.

Oh, and there’s the video of him saying “grab them by the pussy,” believing President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. (birther movement), floating a conspiracy theory linking Ted Cruz’s father to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the list can go on.

By any stretch of the imagination, this is not normal. David Duke, former Ku Klux Klan leader and white nationalist (white supremacist) called Trump’s win a victory for “our people.” Recently, Trump appointed Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of alt-right website Brietbart News as his chief strategist. This man has gained a place in the West Wing and we have no other reaction than disgust.

We cannot afford to normalize and rationalize this behavior and rhetoric. At its core, these protests are not a bold-faced rejection of the election results but a rebuke against hatred and bigotry.

But in the midst of this fear, people have taken to bashing people who voted for Trump saying they’re sexist, racist, hateful, etc. Surprise, there’s nuance to that too. People who voted for Trump aren’t necessarily those things; there are extremists on both sides, but we can’t lump everyone together.

Take Judy Pennington from Elliot County as an example. She voted for Obama in 2008, according to the Associated Press, but voted for Trump because she felt left behind and forgotten, especially in regards to the coal industry. Tracie St. Martin in Ohio, in an interview with ProPublica, said she too had voted for Obama but was leaning toward Trump for the same reasons Pennington was.

“I wanted people like me to be cared about. People don’t realize there’s nothing without a blue-collar worker,” St. Martin told ProPublica.

We’ve heard from several Republicans/conservatives, of which Trump totally isn’t, that they’re also angry, upset and saddened with their party. They’re coming under fire for either having voted for Trump or being Republican which accomplishes absolutely nothing and further alienates us.

Where do we go from here? For the love of everything good, everyone needs to get out of their echo chambers, both the left and right, and actually come together. But the only way we’re going to do that is if we sit down and talk – and we mean really talk. No more sidestepping issues of race, class or education because we’ve ignored that and it’s erupted in our face. Be receptive of differing opinions up until those opinions become legitimately dangerous for other people’s lives.

“More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of goodwill. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

If you want to protest hatred in lieu of normalizing it, then protest. Do it peacefully and create beautiful trouble. If you want to wait and see how things will turn out then it’s your right as well. But some people have never had the time to do that.