Column: Protest is integral to Georgia State experience

The United States’ current political moment has presented Georgia State with a unique opportunity of expression; an opportunity familiar with both advancement and controversy.

Following the election of President Donald Trump, an overt ideological divide has become thematic within America’s political arena. In a time when the The Atlantic, The Washington Post and The Hill are reporting that the president is accused of disregarding anti-semitism, a sitting U.S. Senator testified against another during his Attorney General confirmation hearing and the president called the media an “enemy of the American people,” emotions about the direction of the country have reached a flaring point among both concerned Trump resistors and Trump supporters frustrated with the pushback he has received from liberals.

Many Atlanta residents, including Georgia State students, have been moved to action by the swells of political emotion reverberating through the nation. Recent protests and marches throughout the Atlanta area, such as the “Day Without Immigrants” and the “Right To Life” march, have left their footprints on Georgia State’s campus. Whether one agrees with the message of either protest, it is encouraging to see such powerful forms of expression taking place both near Georgia State and with students involved.

Protest allows neglected voices to be heard; they bring to light the beliefs of passionate segments of a population. The concept of exposure – a key component of protest as a practice – makes protest so vital to maintaining Georgia State’s richly diverse culture.

Students are given the privilege of being exposed to a variety of schools of thought, even those that may be marginalized or underrepresented in many areas of the country, in the form of protest. Whether those protests entail claims that President Trump is a fascist, chants in support of immigrants or a message against abortion, they allow Georgia State students to directly encounter ideologies that they otherwise may not have come across.

While an occasional closing of a road to allow protesters to march may be inconvenient, it is an inconvenience worth bearing to promote the dissemination of thought. While joining a group of protesters may not always be positively received by friends, it is a risk worth taking to advance the diversity of values that is vital to the Georgia State experience. While engaging in an ideological battle during a time scarred by strained political relationships may pose challenges, they are challenges worth confronting in order to guarantee that as many belief systems as possible are given representation within the cultural pool of Georgia State’s student body.

In an idealistic sense, protest is negative because it signifies turmoil among different groups; however, in the reality of our modern political moment, turmoil has become an accepted norm. In the face of this turmoil, a special amount of attention must be placed on ensuring that a system for the free-flowing expression of ideas is in place. Georgia State has developed a reputation as an institution with a high level of tolerance for a variety of belief systems; a tolerant environment such as the one maintained at Georgia State creates an ideal venue for a rainbow of ideas to flourish. A full embrace of protest furthers the possibility of exposure to these ideas and allows free-flowing expression to occur.

With such a powerful divide overarching America’s current political scene, an advancement of different ideas to new audiences is critical to maintaining intelligence and civility within political discourse. As this politically-charged year progresses, continue to make your voice heard within your community; there may be a student who needs to hear it.

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