Speak up or Shut up

Collin Reischman is a junior journalism major and Opinion editor for the Journal

COLLIN REISCHMAN: We Need the Day of Silence

Self-inflicted silence is a common tool, perhaps almost overused at times, employed by those feeling oppressed or even targeted by their general surroundings.
The National Day of Silence, for our intents and purposes, is one approaching on April 15. It is set to raise awareness of anti-LGBT language and bullying. Students of any persuasion, united by their identical belief in equal rights for equal citizens are encouraged to remain silent for the day, refusing to speak; in order to represent the millions suffering in either forced or self-inflicted silence.
Some would argue there is a kind of hopeless futility in the entire enterprise. Some would argue that these kinds of demonstrations are inherently meaningless within the grand scheme of national dialogue and legislative decisions. They would be right to argue as such.
I won’t pretend to understand fully the torment a gay student must feel when struggling with his or her own public image. No one can truly understand the inner turmoil many LGBT young people encounter every year as part of their ongoing struggle for rights and freedom.
Also, these same right-wing naysayers won’t acknowledge for a moment the stupefying laws in our own state regarding homosexuals. If you’re gay in Missouri, you can still be fired or evicted for it and you can’t do a damn thing about it.
Solidarity is something that many, (including the privileged, atavistic and “moralist” folk often seen calling gay kids “perversions” or “hell-bound vessels for Satan”), cannot possibly see the value in. But for a young man or woman struggling with his sexuality, gender or identity, nothing is more comforting than the knowledge that others are suffering with him and that hope remains, no matter what.
For gay teenagers and college students, there can be no greater symbol of hope and optimism than knowing that millions, regardless of personal sexual preference or upbringing, are behind them one-hundred percent.
Our school has an almost distractingly open attitude toward all walks of life, including so-called “unconventional lifestyles.” So why, you might ask, should Webster even take part in an event supporting an already outspoken minority?
The people posing this question are the same people too squeamish or awkward to address a homosexual head-on about the horrifically brutal experience of coming out. Imagine all of the normal teenage angst added with the weight of coming to grips with an identity feared, loathed and misunderstood by most of the people around them.
For someone suffering in the terrible state of panicked isolation, no medicine can be more healing than the warm and happy understanding that people, even strangers, care about them.
But of course, this would be the kind of liberal nonsense that close-minded, backwards homophobes can’t quite muster the strength to take seriously. If they did, they’d be forced to face the harsh reality that the general electorate actually supports equal rights and fair treatment for all people, regardless of bedroom decisions.
This is a time for the “straight but not narrow,” crowd to flex a little public muscle. Make it clear you won’t tolerate small-minded idiots harassing your friends. Tolerate nothing less than the right to function as a proper, tax-paying citizen with just as much at stake in this country as any bible-thumping redneck.
The law doesn’t require we all like each other. No reasonable individual (while sober) actually believes in the notion of utopian society of total fairness and parity. But the law does, though to an embarrassingly short degree, protect the people from crimes based on unsubstantiated hate.
Here in Missouri, sexual orientation is not protected under the law. Bosses may legally fire their homosexual employees for their lifestyles, and landlords can evict their tenants based on their sexual preference.
If any place needs the power of collective silence, more to illustrate solidarity of voice than victimization, it is right here, in our backyard.


JOSH COPPENBARGER: Preaching to the choir

Josh Coppenbarger is a freshmen film production and journalism major and graphics assistant for The Journal

Apparently Webster University students love a silent protest.
First, it was announced former Sen. Kit Bond would speak at commencement this year.
Flyers were taped to walls hoping to attract attention. Facebook groups were formed for people to ignore. Now, there’s the National Day of Silence.Webster students did not create the National Day of Silence, but this is its inaugural year on campus.
April 13 marks the day when students shut up to speak out against bullying of students who are gay and/or transgender. The purpose, according to organizers, is to raise awareness about the suffering of LGBT students to bullying.
I’m not participating.
Here at Webster, students and teachers are far more than likely to be “gay friendly” than at other universities or schools. Webster strives to stay true to its core value for students to respect others for their diversity. That’s what makes Webster so unique.
So why protest against gay bullying in a campus where it’s scarce? There’s no reason to. Correct me if I’m wrong, but how much LGBT bullying happens on this campus every day?
This protest would become another redundant and meaningless action that will lead nowhere for students or awareness of anti-gay bullying.
The silence is supposed to be symbolism for the unspoken victims of gay bullying. When protestors aren’t speaking during the day and people are unaware of this event, the protest becomes ineffective. No one would even know a protest is happening.
I have been through four Days of Silence, and every time I tend to forget there’s even a protest.
Gay rights are today’s civil rights movement. Its gained national attention and many people are taking action to make gay rights a reality.
The civil rights movement was more than 60 years ago, and still, there’s no end of racism in sight. The movement itself never proposed it could end racism. In the same vein, gay rights will not end bigotry.
Events such as the National Day of Silence are like Black History month; they exist for the groups to be active with “awareness,” yet get nowhere.
Is this National Day of Silence really the answer — or even a step — towards gay rights? Not at Webster.
If people feel the need to protest, they should travel to other places where their voices will actually be heard. Even San Francisco — the gay capital of the world — could still use a hand here or there but not at Webster.
Students created the National Day of Silence so students could have a voice — or lack thereof.
As the National Day of Silence is entering its 15th year, more than 8,000 schools have participated in this event. Why is Webster just now jumping on the bandwagon? Is LGBT falling behind on their activism?
When the Day of Silence was first created in 1996, student activism for anti-gay bullying was little to none. Since then, our sense of the world has changed. More people are now open to gay people than there have ever been before.
Still, many gay teens are constantly being harassed because of their sexual orientation. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network reported that 86 percent of gay high school students were harassed in 2006. In universities, it’s 39 percent.
Maybe it’s the high schools that should be worried, not the universities like ours.
Clearly, a lot of people grow up and therefore discrimination dies down in college. Is there really a need for Webster to even begin protesting?
Stop wasting your time. You’re not making much of an impact here.

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