Dear President Donald Trump

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Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

Dear President Donald Trump,

You don’t know me, but you did recently mention my school in one of your infamous tweets. I attend UC Berkeley, the campus that violently threatens free speech.

(Nevermind that my school was the one to cultivate the values of free speech among young activists in the 60s, but I digress.)

I’d like to congratulate you on such a popular, well-written tweet. It denoted all of the fabulous points that you’ve been trying to make throughout your campaign and most assuredly in your time as president of these United States.

In order to fully appreciate all the golden nuggets of wisdom that seem to fall effortlessly from your tiny, orange fingers, I’d like to speak to you about certain points raised in your tweet.

You insinuate that UC Berkeley doesn’t allow free speech. Here’s the tricky thing about free speech and the First Amendment, Mr. President. There is a lot of literature and investigation into the legality and specificity of what constitutes the protection of freedom of speech, and because we both know you won’t do any of that pesky reading, I’ll make it simple.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution aims to protect the rights to freedom of religion, expression, assembly and petition. In the many cases that have judged the particularities of these freedoms, none yet have guaranteed the protection of opinion.

In short terms, UC Berkeley not only allows the practice of free speech, but creates a space for free speech to emerge in multitudinous ways.

“In the many cases that have judged the particularities of these freedoms, none yet have guaranteed the protection of opinion.”

Milo Yiannopoulos was allowed to speak on campus, but the event was canceled for safety reasons. The administration, against the wishes of many, allowed him to address the campus. He was never legally denied the right to speak, he was simply drowned out by the voices against him.

Student demonstrators were allowed to assemble and petition against “a different point of view,” thus expressing their own protected freedom. The tension that was created on my campus seemed not to emerge from the denial of free speech, but from its point of intersection.

Therefore, to your first point I’d like to say WRONG.

UC Berkeley does and did allow free speech. If you’re still confused as to how you’re wrong, I hope that one of the many books at your disposal that sit unused could perhaps enlighten you.

To your mention of the practice of violence: it appears that anti-fascist groups and instigators overtook the peaceful protest that was intended and organized by UC Berkeley students.

At this point, I’d appreciate it if you could take a moment to dwell on the meaning of “fascism.”

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, fascism is:

a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

While these words may mean nothing to you (indeed, I wonder if you believe that words hold permanent meaning at all), this is one of those “trigger words” you seem to despise.

Fascism is a trigger word because it triggers feelings of fear, oppression, harmful opposition to constructive discourse, unfair punishment, unbalanced equality and more. The raging debate as to whether fascism is emerging in the United States through your administration is not one I aim to enter into with you, because it is doomed to go nowhere.

Instead, Mr. President, I’d like you to recognize that violence was incited in opposition to this idea of fascism. Action was taken against a political ideology that I thought had died long ago. This was attached to a man whose “innocence” is up for debate, considering his rhetoric of hate speech.

Actions speak louder than words, and this is why I’d like you to remember this early moment in your presidency, because the speech that was vilified in these acts of protest and violence don’t stray too far from your own rhetoric.

Additionally this loose definition of fascism identifies a “forcible suppression of opposition.” In case you weren’t aware, taking away federal funds from a school that disrupts the comfort of those who take solace in your hate is exactly that. That act would in turn defy free speech.

Not sure if you’ve caught on yet, but there’s a lot of circular logic and hypocrisy piling up here.

Not to mention, your threat to remove federal funds? Unfortunately, that’s not how the funding for this campus  works. Turns out, you’re not as good at understanding money as you thought.

So to your other points, I’d also like to say WRONG.

President Donald Trump, writing a letter to you seems fruitless, because I find it hard to believe that you’re able to read anything that isn’t found on your Twitter feed. Nevertheless, I thought it important to let you know that the campus I’m from is the No. 1 public school in the world.

Our students make up a political spectrum that ranges from Republican to Democrat and everywhere in between. The people that study here are undocumented immigrants, refugees, victims of sexual assault, people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community. They come from socioeconomic backgrounds across the board. Some have overcome the challenges of incarceration and poverty, while others have lived lives nearer to the privilege you’re accustomed to. They are scholars, philosophers, writers, protesters, artists, scientists, athletes, environmentalists.

The diversity and complexity of this campus is one I can’t personally speak for because I know a fragment of this community and do not know what they would say to you.

“So to your other points, I’d also like to say WRONG.”

What I do know, is that we are diverse, young and unafraid, Mr. President. We’re well-read and better at Twitter than you are.

We are the future of this country.

Sincerely,

A Liberal Berkeley Student

Contact Elaina Provencio at [email protected].