You’ve succeeded, you believe. The Boston Globe covered your protest and discussed the issues. The Tufts administration, at which you were angry for inviting a speaker whose platform you did not support, was embarrassed by your actions. You are sure this means that they will not be inviting any more “controversial” speakers in the future. You believe Governor Baker went home that night to sleeplessness, troubled at the “fascism” of his policies; you believe that the following morning he declared Massachusetts a sanctuary state and raised the education budget and ended the militarization of the police. The issues of today are gone; you solved them, with a few loud chants and some name-calling.
You are sorely mistaken. I appreciate the immense concern you have for the well-being of members of our community who are threatened by the current political administration. I am interested in your stories, in your facts and figures, in your arguments. Though your protest — an attempt to shut down a conversation to bring up another — angered me, I understand the necessity of using a public platform like that to make your voice heard. Despite disagreeing, I find it hard to ignore the sudden attention given to the causes you brought up.
This is why I was shocked when you refused to discuss the issues any further. You got the platform you needed. You got people listening. Tufts CIVIC — which provides an open forum for political discussion between Democrats, Republicans and others — specifically reached out to you to see if you would be interested in explaining the issues and representing them at the next few meetings. They even set aside three weeks’ worth of conversation topics for the three issues that you brought up. Only two of you attended. The rest of you did not, as you said you were busy.
When I spoke with some of you after the protest, you told me that you had put hours and hours of research into the event, looking up Baker’s specific policies until you found evidence to protest him. This information was not shared with anyone outside of the protestors. To everyone else, it seemed like a load of unsubstantiated claims. People showed up en masse to CIVIC’s discussion on sanctuary cities, hoping to hear the stance that was so strong that it had to be represented by a protest. This stance was not represented.
I struggle with this for the same reason I struggled with your protest tactics: shutting down dialogue to make a point. You spoke without listening and shouted to drown out discussion and dialogue to bring attention to your stance. You restricted the opportunities of others to listen to engage and dialogue — despite the fact that many of them may have held the same views as you — to be sure that your voice was heard. You asked questions and left before getting answers. You responded to civic discussion with name-calling, chants and anger. I understand the necessity of some of these protest strategies, even if I disagree with them.
People are interested and concerned and wanting to learn. You say these topics are “not up for debate or discussion,” forgetting that at one point or another every issue in politics must be up for debate and discussion. You say you refuse to compromise on human rights, but no one is asking you to compromise. We are asking you to explain. With every passing day that you refuse to do so, you are alienating people who want to help.
I don’t think you understand what a position of privilege you are in for being given these forums for learning and understanding. If you were in Thailand, you would be given between three and 15 years of jail time for speaking out against a government official. In Iran, you would be lashed. Even in other places in the United States, people would be so angry at your protest strategies that they would refuse to listen to the actual issues. Here you have large groups of people who want to learn. They want to listen. They want to understand. Use this privilege you have of being in this environment to support the issues and people who you want to support. We have given you the space to share; now it’s your move.
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