Over the past few weeks, at college campuses across the country and here at Ole Miss, students have shown their support of presidential candidate Donald Trump by using chalk to display messages like ‚ÄúTrump 2016‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúMake America Great Again.‚ÄĚ The messages are innocent enough. There is no hatred implied in them and they support a presidential candidate who has racked up millions of votes. But several students, professors and people with no affiliation whatsoever to these many universities have condemned this activity as ‚Äúoppressive‚ÄĚ or by saying ‚Äúit makes me feel unsafe.‚ÄĚ I truly wonder why people have this opinion. While I do not support Trump in the Republican primary and I believe that his rhetoric is wrong and divisive, people have every right to demonstrate their First Amendment right of supporting their preferred candidate.
When students protest this innocent act or claim it ‚Äúviolates their safe space,‚ÄĚ all they do is drive more people towards Trump and his message of non-political correctness. If they really wanted to send a message in response, they could chalk out ‚ÄúClinton 2016‚ÄĚ or ‚ÄúBernie 2016‚ÄĚ on their own. I may not support those candidates, and I find some of their statements deeply troubling–like Secretary Clinton‚Äôs assertion this past weekend that although an unborn child is a person, that child has no constitutional rights. However, their supporters have the First Amendment right to freely express support of her in chalk, or by any other means allowed under the law.
Another issue that is often raised in these types of situations is our University‚Äôs creed, specifically the clause ‚ÄúI believe in fairness and civility.‚ÄĚ Upholding this is very important, but slogans written in chalk that are supported by millions of American citizens do not constitute a violation of civility. In fact, writing something in easily removable chalk is one of the most civil things a person can do to support or protest something. No matter what we believe in, phrases in chalk should not scare us. And if someone opposes them or finds it offensive, they have every right to stage a ‚Äúchalk protest‚ÄĚ in response. These are the rights our country was built upon, and a free exchange of ideas, whether they are popular or not, is a crucial part of who we are as a nation.
Trump and his supporters have the right to speak freely and be heard. If you find Trump‚Äôs statements wrong, then find your own outlet to protest. You have every right to do so, and you have the right to be heard as well.
Patrick Waters is a freshman accountancy major from St. Louis.