Participants display their signs in protest to Senator Joni Ernst's policy proposal at a Town Hall meeting in the Iowa Memorial Union on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. (James Year/The Daily Iowan)

Jaimes: Ernst town hall, an example of growing conflict on college campuses

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Ernst was met with angry protesters on Friday, exercising freedom of speech but modeling intolerance.

By Marina Jaimes      

marina-jaimes@uiowa.edu

On Sept. 22, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, was met by an angry crowd at the IMU for her Johnson County town hall. Another event, “Our Voice” rally, hosted by Iowa Action and Hawkeyes for Dream Iowa, took place before the senator spoke to the people of Johnson County.

Ernst is not only Iowa’s first female senator, she is the first female combat veteran to serve in the Senate. Twenty-three years in the United States National Guard prepared Ernst to stay calm in front of the angry crowd she was faced with at the University of Iowa. While Ernst should have been shown respect for her service and shattering of numerous glass ceilings, she received everything but.

During the event, Ernst was booed, protested, and greeted with signs using vulgar language. Two attendees were escorted out and the rest in attendance continued to act negatively toward Ernst. Despite the cold welcome, Ernst persevered and continued to hold the town hall.

Ernst held the town hall as part of her “99 County Tour,” in which she visits with as many of her constituents as possible. The “99 County Tour” is meant for constituents to interact with Ernst since she is representing them in the senate. The tour is a luxury that many other states do not receive. Needless to say, the people of Johnson County should not have taken this opportunity for granted.

RELATED: Ernst faces tough questions on Graham-Cassidy bill at Iowa City town hall

On a smaller scale, the UI is part of a large phenomenon of agitated protest around the United States. Just a few weeks ago, liberal students and members of the anti-fascist movement at the University of California-Berkeley,  protested the hour-long, optional speech by conservative speaker Ben Shapiro. Shapiro, a follower of Judaism, faced backlash as students labeled him as a white supremacist, Nazi, fascist, etc.

In the hours leading up to Shapiro’s  appearance, students gathered on campus and cried in unison, “Speech is violent. We will not be silent.” Students were so fearful of Shapiro’s speech, nine came prepared with banned weapons and were arrested. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is now a phrase unrecognizable to young adults facing an opinion that differs from their own.

In all, the anti-fascist left cost Cal-Berkeley $600,000 to hire armed police officers for the event. $600,000. All. For. Words. As Shapiro stated, “Free speech isn’t free. It cost over $600,000 thanks to Antifa.”  The cognitive dissonance on college campuses has become so extreme that anyone with an opposing view is violated of their right to free speech in fear of being attacked by those who can’t distinguish words from actual physical harm.

Shapiro, like Ernst, went to a college campus with viewpoints that opposed the liberal majority, and both were met with outcries, profanities, and overall inappropriate behavior from an ideology that prides itself in moral superiority and tolerance. If we cannot encourage civil discourse and diversity of thought, we can expect the future of America to look as chaotic as it did the night Shapiro spoke at Berkeley. There is no future for America if proper communication is made impossible.

Of course, freedom of speech allows all students to freely disagree with both Shapiro and Ernst, but it also allows the speakers to say what they wish to say without being silenced. As students at the University of Iowa, it is our job to set an example of how to act when faced with views we do not believe in if we wish to maintain the freedoms given to us by the First Amendment.

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