November 8, 2012

Presidents and Assholes

Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one. I am reminded of this in life generally, and around Presidential elections particularly. Typically, I enjoy casual political discussions, but I loathe the name-calling and mudslinging that these conversations can turn into at times. The advent of social media has made it much easier to sling aforementioned mud, and it's been interesting to see how this growing medium has factored into the three Presidential elections in which I've been eligible to vote.

Politically, I'm moderate.  I can usually see both sides of an argument, and as such I identify with values represented by both the Democratic and the Republican party. There are numerous articles, analyses, thoughts and rants about this election on the Internet for you to peruse at your leisure. That's not what I'm writing about. What I'm writing is the drunken and immature student protest that occurred at the University of Mississippi after the announcement that President Barack Obama had won the Presidential race. You may have read about it, as the Washington Post posted an article about the "riot" that occurred.

Folks, this was not a riot. Unfortunately, Mississippi knows its riots all too well as it has a very sad, very horrifying, very bloody past. This event was a group of 30-40 drunk students (mostly freshman, so teenagers) who weren't happy with the way the election turned out; instead of acting like rational human beings, one person burned an Obama/Biden sign and several others yelled racial slurs. Once the initial group gathered, word spread of the protest via social media, so the crowd of onlookers, not protesters, grew to between 300-400 people.

I'm not pardoning nor condoning this behavior at all--I'm embarrassed that this occurred in my home state, I'm appalled that our president (regardless of his politics or skin color) was disrespected in such a significant way, and most of all I'm saddened that racism still exists on any level. While I personally would like to see these kids held accountable for their actions, I'm not sure how feasible that is considering our First Amendment protects the freedom of speech.

However, one obnoxious asshole burning a sign and a handful of immature and irrational college kids do not speak for our entire state or for its children. Mississippi certainly has a long way to go, and its violent past will never be forgotten, but I wish that it could also be remembered for something other than our troubles. I wish that the national media had also spent the same amount of energy publicizing the 600-participant We Are One Mississippi candlelight walk to condemn the protest. A candlelight vigil in and of itself won't solve bigotry or any other problem, but it's a great step to show that the vocal minority does not speak for the majority. (More here, here, and here.) 

UPDATE: Read the first-hand account of the protest.

Photo: Bruce Newman, Associated Press
In closing, one of my favorite quotes from a fellow Mississippian:
"Mississippi is like my mother, I am allowed to complain about her all I want, but God help the person who raises an ill word about her around me, unless she is their mother, too." Kathryn Stockett

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