Bridging the Gap



Nicholas Johnson

I am not a Republican. I’m not really much of anything. I have a few opinions. I’m a free speech nut. I think Ryan Gosling is a national treasure. I think more drugs should be legal, and that mashed potatoes are the worst part of Thanksgiving dinner. I think President Trump is a really bad dude. I think Nazi’s are way worse. I don’t like violence. I don’t even like confrontation. And I think soccer is unwatchable.

These are some of the things I believe. Whenever I’m faced with a pressing political issue (oftentimes, this happens late- I don’t pay attention to the news), I’ll try and fit it into this existing framework. As there are a lot of holes, it’ll usually slide right in. Unfortunately, because I’m dumb, another idea will often come along, a similar-shaped yet incompatible piece of information. So I’ll swap the two pieces in and out of my brain, before inevitably deciding to toss both out, because forming opinions is hard.

The issue is certainty. I ‘m expected to have everything figured out. Certainty can be a good thing, in certain cases. ‘Nazi’s are bad’ seems like a statement with a very little moral wiggle room, and justifiably so. But certainly, in conjunction with righteousness, form a nasty cocktail. Their toxic combination makes conversation nearly impossible. Though some people would say the time for conversation has passed, I guess I disagree.

This has been my long-winded way of getting to the topic at hand- The vandalization of several right-wing campus groups’ panels on the Washington Avenue Bridge. There is a big moral question at play here, and as I said earlier, I’m very dumb, so I’ll try and keep the commentary as simple as possible.

Let’s take the vandalized sections of the bridge one by one.

The Minnesota Republic, in my opinion, is a relatively non-partisan publication. Obviously, you should take my opinion with a grain of salt. The vandalism on our section of the bridge was relatively benign: A simple yellow “Fuck Your Hate” spanning the bottom of two panels.

I feel about this particular message much the same way I feel about the popular anti-Trump slogan “Resist.” It means nothing. I don’t like platitudes.

Oh, and to whoever vandalized our panels, on the off chance you’re reading this- the Minnesota Republic writers aren’t a hateful bunch. I know you don’t believe me, but it’s true. More specifically, I don’t hate you. I can’t imagine the two of us hanging out, but in the broadest theoretical sense, I love you, mystery vandal.

I don’t know much about Turning Point USA, other than that it’s somewhere on the conservative end of the political spectrum. Here’s how their section broke down.

Panel 1- Free markets, free people, free speech.

This is fine, so far as I can tell.

Panel 2- An American flag. Underneath, the message ‘We Stand’ Alright, I don’t much like seeing this panel next to the free speech one. For my money, if the president tells you to stand, you take a knee.

This section was vandalized with three message- Fight fascism (Definitely. I’m just skeptical Turning Point is fascist), punch Nazis (Look, I got some sick satisfaction out of seeing Richard Spencer get socked in the jaw, but I’m not sure a lenient attitude toward violence of any kind is good ground to tread on. I don’t know. Seeing open white supremacists rally in Charlottesville was horrifying. However, I can’t see how more violence solves anything. Again, and I can’t say this enough, I don’t know), and end white supremacy (I agree. Let’s do it.)

Panel 3- Facts don’t care about your feelings.

While technically true, I’ve never care for this sentiment. Politics is all about feelings. Conservative, progressive, libertarian- These are moral frameworks.

This panel was vandalized with the word ‘Propoganda.’ I’m not sure what the vandal was going for.

The College Republicans, on panel two of their three-panel section, branded themselves the“Least Popular Minority on Campus.”

This is a joke. Is it a good joke? Eh. Is it in poor taste? Probably. But the U of M College Republicans, contrary to what the vandals suggested, are not “oppressors.” They’re dumb college kids, like the rest of us, and they’re trying to get your goat. They succeeded, apparently.

I haven’t said much about the vandalism itself. In some cases, vandalism can be an effective tool of political dissent. However, the Washington Ave Bridge is not the Berlin Wall. If you truly believe the messages espoused on the bridge need to be covered up, you’ll have to risk punishment. Some weird, protest loving part of me wishes you the best of luck.

If you walk across the bridge now, you won’t see these controversial panels. Ironically, they werewhitewashed. There was been further vandalization. The now white section was covered with more platitudes, so hackneyed they aren’t worth repeating here. I don’t think anyone’s getting any satisfaction from the spray-painting anymore. It became nothing more than a mess for some uninvolved University employee to clean up.

Now, the combined panels of all three groups simply read CENSORED. That bums me out.

Despite the apparent hopelessness, there is one small consolation to be found, in the form of dank memeage. The University’s La Raza chapter, in response to the College Republican panel, lampooned their “Least Popular Minority on Campus” message with a Spongebob meme. It’s the meme where Spongebob sticks out his tongue and all the words underneath the picture are randomly capitalized. You know what I’m talking about. Go check it out if you don’t. It’s a hoot and a half.

This is how disagreements should be settled. Mock bad ideas, please, and do so relentlessly. Mockery is close to mutual ribbing, which is next to open dialogue, which is followed by begrudging respect, which can only lead to bonafide love. Sure, there’s a lot of ground to cover before we get to that point, but I’ll take a Spongebob meme over vandalism any day of the week.

Overall, I’m not saying anyone’s anger is inherently unjustified. By all means, protest. The red-blooded American in me wants to see it. Just… If my opinion is worth anything, maybe stop with the vandalism? Really, I understand that you’re upset, even if I’m not going through the same struggles. These are loud, hateful times in America. However, I don’t see how censorship, or shouting, or angry painted slogan will solve anything, or even make anyone feel better.

Let’s just talk. I can’t imagine it could make things any worse.