The dangers of persecution

Evan Valentine, senior English major

Guest column by Evan Valentine, senior English major

“We see what happens when you persecute people. They fold into themselves.”

That’s how Mahershala Ali began his acceptance speech after winning Best Supporting Actor at the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 29 for his performance in “Moonlight.” He continued, saying that we need to support each other despite our differences of skin color, sexuality, or religion, citing his character in “Moonlight” as an example of that support. He did not explicitly refer to President Donald Trump’s executive order to ban travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, but it’s hard not to think of that and the other orders Trump has signed off on while listening to him.

It’s an amazing speech. You can tell how passionate he is about the subject from the emotion in his voice along with his own experience of converting to Islam despite his mother being a minister. But, I think there’s an important aspect that he doesn’t mention when you persecute people: Eventually, those people who fold into themselves will lash out.

You see it in “Moonlight” during the second act when Chiron, the main character and constant target of persecution, smashes a chair over the back of a bully and I think America saw it when Trump was elected. There are a number of articles explaining how Trump won the election by winning the Rust Belt, the forgotten people who felt persecuted and think America isn’t great anymore. The people who Bill Maher recently called “pillbillies” and “(expletive) drug addicts,” the people who were famously called “deplorable” by Hillary Clinton; and the people who would rather watch football and mixed martial arts than a movie.

Trump wasn’t elected in order to fix things; he was elected to break things and make the people who were comfortable in Barack Obama’s America uncomfortable. And we saw with his first week in office that that’s what he’s going to do. So, how do those of us angered by his orders combat them? The public response, in the form of donations, social media outrage, and airport protests, to his ban on travel which was signed on Jan. 25 was inspiring to see. The $24 million donated to the American Civil Liberties Union was particularly appealing to me, as I’m not much of a social media warrior or one to make signs and chant.

My plan is to donate to a different organization each month, starting with the ACLU, and then an organization dedicated to fighting drug addiction in the U.S. I won’t be donating a lot, but the key is to do what you can and what is comfortable. Above all else, educate yourself on issues that matter to you from all sides. While you’re doing what you can to fight persecution, try to remember not to get caught up in the minutiae of those you’re fighting against.

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