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Monday, Feb. 13, 2017

Don’t be bullied into silence

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Be vocal about the things that matter

In Berkeley, Calif., masked protesters smashed windows, stormed buildings and set fires recently on the campus of the University of California to shut down a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, a Breitbart News editor. The university canceled the event and blamed "150 masked agitators" for the unrest, saying they had come to campus to disturb an otherwise peaceful protest. Five people were injured, and the university police locked down the campus for hours, but not until the protesters had caused $100,000 worth of damage to the campus.

That followed a bloody frenzy in Seattle on Inauguration Day last month, where protestors tried to prevent a speech by Mr. Yiannopoulos again, but this time at the University of Washington.

Then there was Madonna on Inauguration Day, who said she had “thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House," while speaking to protestors at the Women’s March in Washington. On that day, hundreds of thousands marched against Trump, and for everything from gender and racial inequities, to the right to organize and fight for a “living minimum wage” for all workers, plus comprehensive reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, and immigrant and refugee rights.

"This is not just the beginning of the 'tea party of the left' but a larger movement for civil rights that could make history," said Moumita Ahmed, founder of "Millennials for Revolution," an offspring of the Bernie Sanders campaign. "The steady flow of protests will absolutely continue and get bigger and bigger."

These often-violent protests, and efforts to silence free speech, remind me of conservative writer William F. Buckley when he wrote, “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”

But none of us should be bullied into silence, however growing the flow of protests become. The truth is, many of you who feel that your candidate won in November, are still struggling to find your voice. You still bite your tongue, or hold your comments back in polite conversation, afraid that you will be called racist, elitist, sexist or antienvironmentalist – regardless of whether it’s true or not – simply because of how you voted or what you believe.

It’s our natural fear of isolation from others that keeps too many of us from sharing our opinions, and this encourages a sense of apathy, or a “to each his own” mentality, instead. This is where we just go along, to get along. The problem with that, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr. is that “(our) lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

With the Democratic Party interests so defeated this past November, and yet so vocal now, especially through the rise of professional protest groups around the country, including those sponsored by brands like Nike and Starbucks, what role do you have now in taking a stand for what you believe and the values you hold? A big one.

In fact, even if you feel you “won” last November, it’s more important than ever to remain vocal about the things that matter.

No, it’s not enough to watch the same conservative television or radio shows, or read the same conservative-minded publications. Or visit with your friends and families about the decline of our country, or the ridiculousness of the violence by protestors. Or which party or demographic population that is mostly to blame for all such issues.

But you shouldn’t keep preaching to the choir, either, and expect much to change, and blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, it will not change you – or our country – and it won’t succeed in changing whatever is making you unhappy, or what you feel is wrong with our country.

"It’s our natural fear of isolation from others that keeps too many of us from sharing our opinions, and this encourages a sense of apathy, or a ‘to each his own’ mentality, instead.”

Instead, you must evangelize the principles upon which our country was founded – economic freedom, equal opportunity, and self-determination – especially to those who may very much disagree with your perspective. These are the fundamental principles of our Declaration of Independence, and when followed, these won’t ever confuse caring, with actually helping, or doing, with actually accomplishing something.

So don’t be silent about things that matter, and call it like it is, no matter what side of the aisle you are on, and even if your candidate won in November. And if anyone happens to get offended by you defending what you believe, especially the intellectuals who “know better” than the rest of us, just tell them to go join a protest. And bring some safety goggles.

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman and attorney. He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com.

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