Coming into 2021, I didn't expect the first few days of the new year to involve an attempted coup against Congress. Even several days after Wednesday, I am still heartbroken and infuriated over what happened in Washington D.C. I am scared of what it means for the future.
Hundreds of insurrectionists, energized by President Trump, stormed the Capitol on Wednesday in an unprecedented assault. They made a mockery of one of the most sacred buildings not just for the U.S., but for democracy as a whole.
"Some of y’all were pissed, and I mean PISSED, [sic] when professional athletes around the county took a knee," tweeted Javon Price, a senior international politics major from fellow Jesuit institution Georgetown University. "Now, please help me understand your silence now that an insurrection commandeered our [nation's] Capitol, replacing [American] flags with Confederate and Trump flags?"
Price is the vice president of external affairs and spokesman for Gen Z GOP, an anti-Trumpist organization that aims to rebuild the Republican Party post-Trump and focus on issues that affect future generations. During the insurrection, Price was in the Cannon House Office Building with his coworkers as a staff assistant for Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), which is independent of his role at Gen Z GOP.
"We got to this point in two main ways: [First,] people in this country, many of them who voted for the President, have felt ignored and shamed as they expressed themselves," Price told me. "The President gave many of these folks a voice and because of that, they follow him wherever he may lead them."
"[Second,] there have been exaggerations and falsehoods about what took place on Nov. 3," Price continued. "Many states did in fact not adhere to the Constitution as they enacted electoral laws—given the COVID-19 pandemic—however, that has led to conspiracy theories about the election being stolen from conservatives."
This becomes a lot scarier when you see these conspiracy theories surrounding the election grow not only from the president, but on campuses.
Students are stuck in echo chambers and unable to come together, and what some of those echo chambers have wrought has poisoned any discourse we could have had anyway. LMU now has several politicized campus clubs fracturing on both the left and right, amplified by the chaos of the Trump era. Having a president that constantly picks fights with arbiters of reality like the press, to the point that Wednesday's insurrectionists wrote "murder the media" on Capitol walls and formed a noose out of stolen AP equipment was not just horrifying, it was impressionable.
The California College Republicans, which have an official chapter at the University, in their flaccid attempt to condemn the violence, said that Republican politicians "should take note how angry voters are with them for not standing for election integrity at expense of [the President]." The statewide group's account still had the antidemocratic hashtag "#StopTheSteal" in their Twitter name as of Friday, well after people lost their lives on Wednesday. One recent tweet from the group even stated, in response to a call for Trump not to attack the freedom of the press, "The press is not there for us. They are there for themselves."
To be fair, the CCR has since taken "#StopTheSteal" off its Twitter profile. However, today CCR has announced it'll be focusing its attention away from Twitter and toward the alt-right platform Gab, which took inspiration for its old logo from Pepe the Frog and was the former home of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter. The UC Irvine chapter has expressed similar sentiments to migrate to Gab.
Looking at all 24 CCR and all 30 distinct California Federation of College Republicans clubs in California, only five in total (Stanford, CSUB, California Poly Pomona, UCSD and UC Berkeley) were confirmed to have issued statements condemning the violence in Washington; three in total (UCLA, Humboldt State and SDSU) condoned it. LMU's CCR chapter has yet to publicly comment on Wednesday's insurrection.
I don't want to make it seem as though this period of tense politics is unique or that college politics can't be civil while still fighting for what they believe in. For instance, the College Republicans National Committee issued a statement praising the "peaceful transfer of power" between presidents after Wednesday's counting of electoral votes and called Biden's election legitimate. The UC Berkeley College Republicans wished Biden "the best of luck" in their condemnation of the violence at the Capitol.
Conversely, the Bruin Republicans club of UCLA, one example of a Republican campus organization in the L.A. area, quote-tweeted the CRNC's statement with, "The establishment GOP is pathetic."
The establishment GOP is pathetic. They stand for nothing and would rather tolerate 4 am fraudulent ballot dumps with the media gaslighting you to accept it than side with grassroots Trump supporters protesting for our country. https://t.co/umUdptkzKb— Bruin Republicans at UCLA (@BruinGOP) January 6, 2021
While the words of the CRNC are admirable, college students can still do more and learn from this dark time in American history. Acknowledging basic reality is the bare minimum.
One of the first things we all ought to do is have a trustworthy local media diet, whether that's tuning in to your local news station or better yet, subscribing to a local paper. Not only is it a good way to support your community, it provides a window away from partisan noise and into relatively more important issues that matter more to your day-to-day life.
Second, students need to be the first ones to call out extremism when it rears itself on campus. This isn't to attack someone's freedom to speak; it's to draw attention to what the facts of a situation are. We can't keep having college groups saying that an election was rigged or illegitimate without those crowding out the truth.
Above all, perhaps the most important thing we can do is to actually listen to each other on both sides of the aisle, left and right, and engage in an honest conversation of who we are and where we're coming from. We cannot label each other enemies; we're just people.
"God lives in each and every one of us, and we've gotten so polarized as a nation that we consider those we disagree with (politically, religiously, culturally, etc.) as the enemy," said Price. "This is wrong. Most people in this country want the best for our great nation, we just have differences on how to get there."
The violence seen in Washington has no place in our democracy. It doesn't even have a place in our backyard. Let's not harbor those same extremist attitudes on our campus.
This is the opinion of Cristobal Spielmann, a junior environmental science major from Brentwood, Tennessee. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow and tweet comments to @LALoyolan on Twitter, and like The Loyolan on Facebook.