Caption: As a result of the anti-abortion campus protest that sparked debate a month ago, Kelley believes students should promote positivity rather than negativity. Photo by Kate Dearman
Recently, I wrote an article about the anti-abortion protesters calling for a strong position from the students and celebrating the strong response of the student body to speak out against hate.
Much to my chagrin, almost two weeks later I was standing among the counter-protesters, holding signs and becoming a part of the movement. What can I say? I respect those making a difference.
With that being said, the reaction of the students to each individual statement made by our counterprotest intrigued me.
Some students found a chord with the counter-protesters fighting back for women’s rights and would cheer on a particular sign they liked. Some students spoke out against the religious intolerance practiced by the anti-abortion protesters, applauding enthusiastically at our signs debunking the out-of-context Bible verses the protesters shouted at the passers-by.
Some were content to take their free condoms from the “Condom Fairy” and be on their merry way. During this time, I struggled with the messages being yelled by my own counter-protesters. Some made their protest an attack on Christianity, while some seemed to not be sure what they were arguing for at all.
Whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life, Christian or non-Christian, male or female, I think we can all agree on one thing: we don’t like the presence of the anti-abortion protesters because we think they are hateful, disruptive and negative, not because they’re Christian or anti-abortion.
With this in mind, it’s time to form a new kind of counter-protest. It’s time to combat negativity with positivity.
Southern Miss is special because our creed is one of the only creeds in the state to celebrate diversity and the differences among humans. It states, “I will appreciate the value of differences among people, customs and viewpoints and oppose hatred, bigotry and bias toward others.”
It goes on to say that “I will exhibit behavior and choose language that demonstrates respect for fellow members of the Southern Miss community.”
This may be strong language, but it really means one simple thing: we at Southern Miss have a duty to speak out against those who do not respect the diversity of the students at our university. It means that because they do not exhibit behavior and choose respectful language, they are no longer welcome on this campus by most students at USM.
Now, here’s the problem: they have a permit and a First Amendment right to demonstrate. You know what, though? So do we.
I propose that we fight fire with water instead of stoking the flame. Their presence is negative and harmful to students, so in return, we fight to be positive and open to all people.
Mahatma Gandhi, the father of modern India, once said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the whole world.”
With these words in mind, it’s important to spread a message of love and diversity to the students of Southern Miss to combat the hateful words of those who would tear us down. Instead of yelling back, try smiling back. Instead of holding up signs attacking theology or politics, hold up signs that celebrate the Southern Miss we know and love: a university of many races, religions and beliefs.
We may not be able to silence the hate, but with the right words and actions we can bring smiles to the faces of the students again.
We can drown out the shouts with singing and art and live performance. We can bring light and readiness back to the fountain area on Tuesdays and Thursdays, reminding current students of our pride and promoting a positive place for prospective students.
Southern Miss is a one-of-a-kind university and as a student body, it is our job to stand behind those being attacked. However, I think the situation can be summed up best by the words of famous peaceful civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
The is an article of opinion written by Printz Writer Lindsey Kelley, Lindsey.N.Kelley@eagles.usm.edu.