Opinion: Please Protest Assholes

John Hess is a senior political science major. Contact him at jhess14@kent.edu.

John Hess is a senior political science major. Contact him at [email protected].

John Hess

You’re probably already aware that Christian extremists have once again visited our campus, spouting anti-gay, anti-abortion vitriol. Most students are familiar with these fanatics whose tactics have all the subtlety of a boot to the face. The aggressiveness of their methods, and the inhuman ideology which underlies them, have often led students to organize counter-protests. This usually prompts a debate: should we really protest these people?

Advocates of protest believe that these hatemongers ought to be publicly denounced in order to defend fellow students and illustrate which way the historical winds are blowing. Opponents of protest make two arguments: first, that protest only draws attention to these people, and second, that their opinions ought to be respected.

Do protests only encourage these people? And if so, shouldn’t we stop? This is an easy argument for students unaffected by their preaching. Straight students and those who have never had to have an abortion can brush such comments off without a second thought. On the other hand, students of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, and beyond community come to Kent State insecure about their identities and with memories of a lifetime of abuses.

Similarly, abortion is an emotionally complicated process and women who have had them are often attacked before and after the fact. These students cannot so easily ignore such harassment, nor should they have to. Ignoring these provocations not only exposes our fellow students to abuse, it also sends the unspoken message that such views are legitimate or acceptable.

They are not.

Let me be clear. LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights are not a debate. The human rights and dignity of our fellow students are not reducible to “to-may-to/to-mah-to. We cannot and should not just agree to disagree. These preachers are entitled to have their opinions, but we are as obligated to take them seriously as if they claimed to have been abducted by aliens or to see bigfoot. More to the point, while there aren’t really consequences to someone shouting about alien abduction, there are serious ramifications when religious extremists from off campus come to Kent State to preach the hate of our friends and families. The death throes of this poisonous ideology threaten to turn back the political clock, prolonging the battle over fundamental rights that are long overdue. Beyond this, the emotional damage resulting from such harassment and the subsequent human cost cannot be calculated.

Last year there was a brief period of time in which it was rumored that the Westboro Baptist Church would come to campus. Hundreds of students gathered for a counter-protest, boldly declaring their support for LGBTQ+ rights, even marching across campus. And you know what? The WBC didn’t even show. In classic form, they just wanted publicity and we gave it to them. And you know what else? It didn’t matter. Kent State students organized themselves, gained valuable political experience, and sent a clear message to the world that not only do we reject hate, we actively fight against it.

I firmly believe that there is value in this. We should not ignore hatemongers, nor should we allow them to operate unimpeded. We should welcome any attempt by them to gain publicity. We will meet them wherever they like, we will overwhelm them, and we will win. 

And so I ask you, please protest assholes.

John Hess is a senior political science major. Contact him at [email protected]