By: Duke Editor
Just hours before participants in a Donald Trump rally were pepper sprayed Wednesday in Pittsburgh, a group of Duquesne students pushed a 12-foot tall beach ball around Academic Walk, calling it a “free-speech ball.”
“We encouraged literally everyone who walked by to write on the ball [with markers],” Tyler Siminski, president of the Duquesne Young Americans for Liberty, told The Duke. “The main point was to show people that the freedom to express their opinion is their fundamental right, and even if you disagree with them, you need to respect their right to say it.”
Although the free-speech ball was sponsored by a political group, it is a perfect example of open, friendly, bipartisan political dialogue that was completely absent from Trump’s rally and the general tone of the 2016 election cycle. In the midst of charged words, offensive slurs and increasing polarization, Duquesne students should strive to keep their minds open and their political dialogue friendly.
Professional political mediator Kenneth Cloke wrote for mediator.com that resolving political conflicts requires “the communication skills to reduce bias and prejudice and engage in constructive dialogue.” It can be easy to tune out political messages that seem offensive or unappealing. Politicians use buzz words to paint the opposition as idiots or even inhuman.
“[America is] run by stupid people,” Trump told the crowd at the David L. Lawrence Convention center Wednesday night.
When Hillary Clinton was mentioned, the crowd started screaming, “Trump that b***h!”
This kind of inflammatory rhetoric does not help anyone or resolve any conflicts, nor does violence. When political rallies end in confrontations and pepper spray, the democratic process has failed. Anyone who studies politics knows that young people do not tend to vote. Additionally, the deadline to register for Pennsylvania’s presidential primaries has already passed.
However, students can still support the democratic process by keeping their political dialogue polite and respectful. The next time your crazy aunt makes a Facebook post you disagree with, avoid sarcastic and inflammatory responses. If a professor or fellow classmate launches into a political opinion that you find offensive, calmly and courteously explain why you disagree. Politics are so much better when they are pepper-spray free.