The Gustavian Weekly

“You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train”

By Amy Leininger - Opinion Editor | May 19, 2017 | Opinion

The Trump administration has faced fierce resistance from a wide coalition of protest movements. Pictured above is the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.

The Trump administration has faced fierce resistance from a wide coalition of protest movements. Pictured above is the 2017 Women’s March on Washington.

This is my last column with The Gustavian Weekly. It has been my greatest joy to contribute to our humble college paper. I am so grateful to our loyal readers (hi Mom and Dad), and to Gustavus for providing a platform for student expression. How wonderful it is to take part, in some small way, in the proud tradition of a free press!

In times like these, a free press matters. The First Amendment matters. Your free speech matters. Words matter. And the truth matters, perhaps more than ever.

It’s going to get weird out there, even weirder than it is now. Every single day, we must reaffirm our commitment to the truth, to freedom, to our country, and to each other. It’s going to be so easy to slip into apathy. When we are bombarded daily with attacks on our democratic norms and institutions, and on our shared understanding of reality, we may become overwhelmed. It will be tempting to give up, and it will be easy to give in.

When it gets hard and I get scared, I think of what my dad used to tell me when I was a little kid, frustrated and on the brink of tears. He used to squeeze my hand, look me in the eye, and say, “Never give up.”

We can’t afford to, not now. There’s too much at stake.

Sometimes it’s going to be lonely to be the only passionate voice in the room. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re crazy for caring about this country. Don’t ever back down in your defense of freedom and the truth.

The best way to combat weariness is to go out and take a stand with other patriots. Never underestimate the power in numbers. Protests aren’t just a way to send a message, they’re a way to strengthen resolve. Nationwide, people from all backgrounds have united in a movement of resistance: the Women’s March, the Climate March, the Tax March, the March for Science, and the upcoming March for Truth, all executed in the four months since the inauguration.

Across the country, lawmakers are nervous. That’s why they’ve responded to the growing unrest with legislation that erodes the people’s First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. Since the election, Republican lawmakers in at least 18 states have pushed for legislation that threatens protesters with punitive measures. This is designed to have a chilling effect on mass protests, because Republicans are scared right now. They remember who won the popular vote.

We must use our rights to protect our rights. Our Constitution is only as good as the people defending it. This is no time for apathy or despair. Things are happening, and they’re happening fast. American historian Howard Zinn said it best: “You can’t be neutral on a moving train.” That means it’s time to take a stand. There’s no room for neutrality. Either you believe in the rule of law, or you don’t. You believe this country is worth defending, or you don’t. You will fight for your rights, or you won’t. It’s time to step up.

It’s time to make America brave again.