A week after a couple of my roommates had posted a “McCain for President” sign on the door of our Thurston room, someone tore it down. A couple days after they posted a second sign, someone defaced it by drawing an inappropriate body part. A few days later, this poster too was torn down.
So much for freedom of expression.
GW is known for political involvement, as it well should be. We are in the center of it all – whoever wins this presidential campaign will be moving into the neighborhood next January. So why do some find it necessary to stoop so low as to engage in abuse and intimidation in the name of political beliefs?
Let me put it bluntly – this behavior is disgraceful. There is no reason why GW students of any mainstream political persuasion should have to suffer for publicly acknowledging their views or expressing support for their candidate of choice. Period.
GW College Republicans Chairman Brand Kroeger said that he receives calls about other students getting signs ripped off or derogatory messages being posted on McCain supporters’ doors. “I would say the vast majority of students respect free speech . but every group is going to have a fringe element,” Kroeger said.
College Democrats President Cory Struble condemned the incidents. “I don’t approve of it. I don’t approve of anyone impeding anyone’s freedom of speech,” Struble said.
Both Kroeger and Struble took the high ground, condemning the attempts at intimidation and isolating the perpetrators to a tiny minority. However, though it may only be a fringe minority (or some foolhardy college freshman’s idea of a joke), the fact that it happened twice to my roommates – and that it happens to others on campus as well – shows this kind of abuse to be a problem at GW.
As an Obama supporter, it is upsetting to see such intolerance coming from people who share my choice for president. Whatever happened to respect, tact and democracy? It is ironic that students supporting a man who has been able to unite so many can stoop to desecrating the democratic ideals they profess to support. One cannot claim to support a candidate in a democratic election and then break a key facet of our democracy – the right to freedom of speech and expression.
In fact, while my door had a McCain sign posted, I was trying to get my hands on an Obama sign to post alongside it, so that my whole room would be represented to passersby. But after my roommates gave in, having had their signs ripped off twice, I decided that I wanted no part in this kind of one-sided political “debate.” Ironically, the abuse of my roommates’ right to show their support for McCain caused me to refrain from publicly displaying my support for Obama.
I hope that GW is actually an accepting campus and these instances really are the exception rather than the norm. If not, then we know what we need to work on. Such political intimidation is not just unethical, it’s un-American. We live in a free society, and if you don’t believe in its ideals, you really shouldn’t be voting in the first place.
The writer is a freshman majoring in international affairs.