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The way we talk to each other matters. Approaching political discussions with charity for the other side is difficult, especially when we think we are on the right side of an argument against evil. We think denying that evil, exposing its ugliness, is enough to make our actions worthwhile. There is, however, a real danger in communicating with anger.

When we talk in a way that respects each other and ourselves, we grow. We exchange ideas and evaluate ourselves. Engaging another person in conversation lets us bring them to see the world as we do. But when we talk past each other, or when we talk in ways that do not engage each other, we cannot make our lives better.

Many on the left are reeling from the election of a man whom they detest. Many have resorted to angry rants and name calling. I understand that impulse. I respect the underlying rejection of values that I too find horrifying. The trouble is not that anger is wrong. The trouble is in the method of its expression.

I wish that calling a spade a spade were enough. I wish that by saying “drug prohibition is racist,” or “immigration restrictions are xenophobic” I could convince everyone to agree and decide to eliminate these policies. But I also understand that angry declarations are never enough. Much of the reason Trump supporters liked a supposed “government outsider” whose unfiltered remarks so horrified the rest of us was that they had been the recipients of untold amounts of elitist sneers. Even though many Trump supporters are unashamed white supremacists, simply calling them racist will never convince them to stop supporting Trump (let alone to abandon their implicit racism). If anything, these accusations, which they find absurd, will only serve to strengthen their resolve.

Consider how you would feel if your ideological opposites started a conversation by calling you names, none of which you agreed applied to you. For a libertarian, this might look like being called a “fascist apologist for the rich.” The conversation would almost surely result in two angry people, both more convinced than ever that the opposite ideology was pure moral corruption and stupidity. No one grew, no one learned, no one experienced the world through new eyes.

Now, imagine your ideological opponent approached you by saying “You seem to believe X, but I believe Y, and I worry that people who believe X are guilty of moral/intellectual error Z. Can you explain X to me?” In this scenario, they may not come to see any value in X, but you have the opportunity to learn both what others think of your views and how to communicate them more convincingly. In this scenario, there is some possibility that you convince your opposite that they should be more like you, and they might convince you to modify your own views in some way.

The way we talk about controversial topics can either vent our anger or make lives better. It cannot do both. In every effort to convince others we may either meet them where they are and sweet talk them into following us down our chain of reasoning, or we may call them names, blame them for problems, and deepen the divide. The latter feels good. I have done a lot of it. Sadly, it does not make the problems we are angry about go away. Swallowing our pride, loving those we “should” hate, and building bridges is the only way we can change minds. If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain.

So which of these two ways of approaching conversation should we adopt? To me, the choice seems clear, if hard.

Anger drives us to action. Anger makes us want to destroy the evil we see in the world. Anger is often a good, important, even necessary emotion, but we have to direct it. We cannot simply let it rule our actions. Everyone is entitled to their anger, but I intend to use mine to make the world a better place, not to drive my ideological opponents further into their trenches. People are not irredeemable. No one is entirely incapable of learning and changing. If we talk to them like they are, we deserve the hate they return.  I plan to talk to people whose opinions I find deplorable with dignity and respect, because the way we talk to each other matters.


This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page

Peace Love Liberty Strike Team

Interventionism in foreign policy has been a crucial element of mainstream political platforms for decades in U.S. politics, but many libertarians see a foreign policy based on restraint as an essential element in the fight for freedom and prosperity across the world. With the quagmire of Iraq dominating political discourse during much of the past two decades, foreign policy is an area in which the ideas of liberty are sorely needed.

Many libertarians see American hegemony as dangerous both domestically and abroad. At home, the military-industrial complex represents a cornerstone of government power. As journalist and political activist Randolph Bourne once put it, “war is the health of the state.”Meanwhile, the United States’ continual presence in more than 70 countries and endless military interventions are both costly and destabilizing, distracting from pressing issues at home and driving growth of government.

As young people become increasingly hesitant to promote interventionist foreign policy, libertarian ideas of restraint and peaceful diplomacy hold significant appeal.

To this end, SFL is providing grants of up to $250 for activism aimed at promoting non-interventionist foreign policy until December 28th.

 

We want peace, love, and liberty around the world.

 

To qualify for the grant, you must carry out an activism event related to libertarian ideas on foreign policy. This could include, but is not limited to:

  • Highlighting the human cost of war
  • Showing students the financial costs associated with interventionist foreign policy
  • “Guess the Sentence” tabling for war whistleblowers
  • Raising awareness of expanded Presidential power over foreign policy
  • Hosting a speaker or debate on the theme of Peace, Love, Liberty
  • Creative ideas not included above (submit a description in your application)

Apply today for a Peace, Love, Liberty grant!

As you watch the election results roll in tonight, there will be a lot of angry posturing, name-calling, and frustration. But this is not the America we know, and it’s not the America that matters. Here are a few reasons to stay positive tonight! 

Join Students For Liberty in a conversation about moving forward, regardless of who takes the White House tomorrow morning. And if you need a break from checking the polls, take a minute to go register for #ISFLC17! Early bird prices end tonight at midnight.

#1: Americans are increasingly disillusioned by politics and power – and that’s a good thing.

The rise of Bernie Sanders made two things clear: socialism is pretty popular (at least theoretically) among millennials, and many people distrust those in charge.

Why isn't she on the ballot?

Why isn’t she on the ballot?

Corruption, whether due to corporate or political greed, is increasingly important to reform-minded young people. That’s not all bad. As Hillary’s paid speeches come to light, and as her use of a private server has been questioned, it’s caused a lot of former-Bernie supporters and the like to question the role power plays in politics.

Though it may not influence their choices this time around, more people are considering what sort of people should be in charge and how the political system shapes an individual’s character and motives. Seeing their guy lose makes libertarian arguments about the growing power of the presidency more convincing.

Libertarians tend to be skeptical of the way power is used and abused in government, and this is often a justification we give for reducing the size of the state. Now, we’re seeing proposals for criminal justice reform and scaling back the drug war from more corners than ours alone. As non-libertarians see the issues play out, they’re beginning to realize something key: power corrupts and changes people. Politicians don’t focus on doing what is right, but rather what is popular. Realizing this  — and seeing the connection to the size of government — can make a big change in the way we vote and make policy.

#2: Many people don’t feel represented by elites in Washington (and this doesn’t make them evil).

This Cracked article explains it perfectly: the Trump phenomenon shows a battle between elites and average Americans, who feel largely ignored. This doesn’t make them evil (though some might have horrible stances on issues related to gender and racial equality), and this doesn’t mean that they’ll go away after election day. If anything, this election is a reminder that acting like we’re in ivory towers of enlightenment often alienates people and makes them feel unrepresented in our political process. (more…)

Yesterday, Students For Liberty staff and volunteers held a reception at the World Health Organization’s COP7 FCTC in New Delhi, India in order to present WHO with a very auspicious prize — the Least Transparent Organization of the Galaxy Award. 

SFL's Yael Ossowski

SFL’s Yael Ossowski

While the Council of Parties had its seventh conference (COP7) in the Delhi metropolitan area, we aimed to draw attention to the dogmatic attempts of the WHO to fight harm reducing and innovative technologies such as vaporizers and electronic cigarettes.

The WHO further qualifies for the award as it’s a shining beacon of hope for all proponents of keeping negotiations between bureaucrats secret and faintly informing the public only once their fate has been decided upon.

             Learn more & take the quiz at: nannystate.in

The smog and pollution outside is the most hazardous it’s ever been, but the UN health bureaucrats would rather regulate what we put into our own bodies than even think about harm reduction.

We were there at the event and stood up for individual rights with our local Indian activists, and we’re already going viral.

CHECK OUT THE VIDEO:

And the stunt made a splash on Twitter as well — check out the commentary under #COP7FCTC and look out for SFL-ers Fred Roeder and Yael Ossowski(more…)

The world’s largest libertarian student organization with over 1,500 volunteers across the globe, Students For Liberty (SFL) today expressed concern at the recent actions of protesters at University of California-Berkeley.

On Friday, October 21st, over 100 students blocked Sather Gate (a publicly accessible bridge on UC-Berkeley’s campus) for several hours to demand that the university relocate a safe space for LGBTQ students and students of color.

Video footage appears to show the protesters blocking white students from crossing the bridge, forcing them to seek alternative routes. Students of color, meanwhile, were allowed to pass through.

Daniel Pryor, Communications Associate at Students For Liberty, said:

“Students For Liberty condemns the protesters’ decision to physically block a publicly-accessible space based on race. Regardless of what one thinks about safe spaces, this tactic is unjustifiably discriminatory and an attack on academic freedom; students can’t freely pursue education if they can’t get to class!

Such aggressive tactics create a chilling effect on free speech, and have also been condemned by UC-Berkeley students from marginalized communities.”

The actions of the UC-Berkeley protesters are the latest in a long-running trend of attacks on academic freedom on North American campuses. SFL activists are working across the world to fight for academic freedom and free speech on campus. Students For Liberty opposes all attempts to infringe upon this vital aspect of a free and open society.