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To the Pence protestors

| Tuesday, March 7, 2017

In the days since Mike Pence was announced as an honorary degree recipient and the principal speaker at Notre Dame’s Commencement this May, I have both overheard and been a part of many conversations debating the University’s decision to invite Vice President Pence to campus for such a significant event.

I heavily considered writing a Viewpoint piece in defense of the University’s decision to invite Pence, but what good would come of this? Realistically, both those in favor of the decision to invite Pence and those opposed are not going to have their opinion easily swayed. The tension and degree to which people feel polarized by this decision became evident to me via posts and comments in the Class of 2017 Facebook group. I’ll leave the debating of whether or not Pence should have been invited as our Commencement speaker to writers from the College Republicans and College Democrats, as well as the plethora of other related Viewpoint articles on this issue that The Observer is likely receiving.

In this article I want to discuss what will actually happen when Pence arrives on campus. Undoubtedly, there will be protestors with plenty of signs outside the football stadium when Pence’s motorcade arrives. This, in my mind, is a given; and there’s nothing wrong with Americans exercising their constitutional rights in this way. Listening to fellow graduating seniors who are upset about the University’s decision to invite Pence, it seems that many are discussing whether or not to attend graduation at all, or how they will protest as Pence speaks. That is what I want to discuss.

First, there is the option to not attend Commencement at all, and either stay home, go enjoy the morning with your family elsewhere or take part in protests outside the stadium. If you choose to do this, that’s perfectly fine, but why let one person ruin your Notre Dame graduation? In recent months I have thought a lot about what I would do if the University invited a politician I staunchly disagreed with to speak at Commencement. What would I do if I felt that the person speaking discriminated against me as a Catholic, white, male, Second-Amendment-loving American? I arrived at the conclusion that I would still attend Commencement. Don’t let one person alter your decision to attend Commencement. Doing so lets the other person (or group) win. Show Pence and your classmates who support him that you won’t allow yourself to be weak and alienated from such a significant event in your life.

Second, there is the option to attend Commencement, but get up and excuse yourself as soon as Pence is ready to speak. This, in my mind, is the worst option, because it is incredibly disrespectful not only to Vice President Pence, but also to your fellow classmates as you cause a disruption leaving the crowded seating area. The obvious counterargument here is, “As a x,y,z student, Pence doesn’t respect me!” Even if you feel this is true, have respect for your fellow classmates who support him. And above all, if you are a person of faith or feel shaped by Christian morals at all, have respect for Pence even if you don’t think he respects you. Countless times in Scripture we are taught to love and respect each other, and even if you feel that Pence doesn’t love you (although I would argue that as a Christian, he does), follow Paul’s teaching to the Romans to “love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).

Third, there is the option to attend Commencement and listen to Pence address our class. This is the most ideal option. Listening to others is one of the most sincere forms of respect. You don’t have to agree with Pence or anything he says to listen. (It is unlikely he will say anything controversial in a commencement address anyway). Again, if you are a person of faith, think about what Jesus would do. Your immediate answer might be, “He wouldn’t have invited Mike Pence to Notre Dame!” But what if he did? Would Jesus want you to be respectful of Pence and your classmates? Yes. Does this mean you have to miss perhaps the most momentous event of your time at Notre Dame? No. Attending and listening to Pence does not imply approval of him or the policies he supports. Rather, attending Commencement affirms you are a part of the Notre Dame family.

Mike Pohl


March 4

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email viewpoint@ndsmcobserver.com

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  • Liz Hynes

    what does discrimination against “Catholic, white, male, second amendment-loving Americans” look like?

    • Mac

      Probably not ECT, icepick lobotomies, chemical castration, or chemical aversion therapy probably.

    • Bush O’Neill

      I believe the word you’re looking for is “Democrat.”

      • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

        When did Obama sign a executive order banning immigrants from Catholic-majority countries? Can you tell me that?

    • Phranqlin

      I’m scratching my head over this one, too. When gay people get married, is it discrimination? When women use contraception, is it discrimination? When trans people use the bathroom of their choice, is it discrimination? When gun control advocates want to do a better job of keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists and criminals (leaving law-abiding gun owners alone), is it discrimination? When Black Lives Matter stages protests against police shootings and brutality, is it discrimination?

      Having said that, there’s also option 4: Wear a protest sign to your graduation.

      • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

        When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

        • Gunnar Anderson

          Please get over your privilege guilt complex. Everyone in life has something someone else doesn’t. Looks, personality, wealth, social posiiton. You take what you have and do your best with it,, or, you live your life as a perpetual victim. Liberals love victims and to be victims. Sooooooo not relevant anymore.

          • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

            Did you get triggered by the use of the word “privilege”?

          • Gunnar Anderson

            It is a word liberals use to self flaggelate and to claim (false) moral superiority over others.

          • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

            Is the word “liberal” a word far-rightists use whenever they are criticized? It is tired and lame. Besides, not everyone who doesn’t worship your dear leader is a “liberal”. Actually Trump supporters are pretty liberal on the economy.

          • Gunnar Anderson

            No, there is a difference between your average democrat and a liberal. liberals comprise about 24% of the electdorate. Please know your political vocabulary. http://www.gallup.com/poll/180452/liberals-record-trail-conservatives.aspx

          • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

            You seem to be the uneducated one here.

          • Gunnar Anderson
          • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

            You’re the one who should read that.

          • Gunnar Anderson

            Absolutley because it is a lame point of view invented by bleeding heart liberals.

  • Paul

    In my view, protesting Mike Pence coming to Notre Dame, a private Catholic and conservative university, is no different than going to a steak restaurant and expecting to be served vegetarian meals

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      Are you saying that Catholics should preach homophobia, misogyny and xenophobia? Are you saying that Catholics should support the VP of a self-admitted sexual offender? By saying that, you’re being prejudiced towards Catholics.
      PS: Most restaurants have vegetarian meals. Please inform yourself before writing absurd analogies.

      • Gunnar Anderson

        Do you ask a girl’s permission before you kiss her? If you don’t then you are no different than Trump. I imagine Trump, like rock stars, was surrounded by women who openly flirted with him and gave him the impression any advances would be welcome. In any event, you don’t know otherwise – you weren’t there. We have no idea if these women were consenting or not consenting, or if they gave the appearance of consent.

        • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

          Who told you that I’m into girls? And no, I don’t kiss anyone (regardless of their gender) without their permission. If you do so, then you are also a sexual offender and maybe that’s why you like Trump so much. And by the way, several women reported Trump for assaulting them. But I bet you only believe in what it comes from your leader’s mouth.

  • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

    As a “Catholic, white, male, Second-Amendment-loving American” (and likely heterosexual), I don’t think you’ve ever experienced discrimination in your life, so I kindly ask you not to talk about things you know nothing about.

  • C. Puller

    I’m trying — and admittedly failing — to comprehend the logic behind comments like Liz Hynes’ and PBnOP0sXke’s. Those commenters seem fixated on the wholly irrelevant question of WHETHER there could be a graduation speaker out there who discriminates against one specific example of persons (Catholic, white, male, Second-Amendment-loving, etc.). I’ve tried, but I just don’t see how the “whether” question is relevant to any of this. I would suggest that the author — likely informed by his Notre Dame education — is approaching this whole issue from a better and more reasoned perspective. You can go down an irrelevant and distracting trail by debating whether X exists or does not exist, but the author is instead hypothesizing for the sake of making a point that X does exist, and then the author draws conclusions from that hypothetical. (And well-reasoned conclusions at that.) I would further suggest that proof of the author’s sound reasoning can be found in that the negative comments here do not address the author’s substance and, instead, focus on the above-identified “Catholic, while, male. …” straw-man argument that the commenters have teed up. But perhaps that is to be expected, because — without that argument — it looks like the negative commenters would be stuck arguing that the author is just dead wrong in urging that there be civility and respect among Domers with differing viewpoints. Does anyone really support that view? This particular Domer will side with the author on that one.

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      Do you know what a strawman is? Are you implying that fair criticism can only happen if parts of the text are completely ignored? The OP spoke about dealing with oppression when he clearly doesn’t know what oppression is. And it’s our right to say that. Deal with it.

  • Ray’Von Lovie

    This is the textbook definition of whitemansplaining.

  • Gunnar Anderson

    It’s amazing when people claim they know what Jesus would do. Perhaps Jesus would applaud a conservative who is against abortion. Perhaps Jesus would be against illegal immigration.

    • HolyHandGrenade

      What-if-ism only tries to skirt around common sense. Not disagreeing with the abortion part, but beyond that, any rational comparison of Christianity’s tenets to Pence’s will lead to glaring inconsistencies that suggest a “you hypocrites” denouncement of the Pharisees as a reaction from Jesus, more than any sort of endorsement. It’s not like the Pharisees agreed with abortion either, at any rate, they were faithful Jews.

      “would 1) be against freedom of speech””

      It protects speech, not consequences. You’re allowed to protest. And get kicked out. Having disrupted a private event on private property. The rights you allude to in 2) for ND to conduct the event as the see fit.

      • Gunnar Anderson

        If you are kicked out, you do NOT have the right to create a disruption! You can protest out in the street, a public place, all day long, but you CANNOT create a disruption inside a venue that you have not paid for yourself!!!!! That’s why you get kicked out!

        • HolyHandGrenade

          Why are you trying to reverse the cause and effect. You can do whatever you want, it doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. Making a disruption is not unconstitutional as you claimed. It just means, as you have agreed, that the result is that you get kicked out. And getting booted doesn’t erase the disruption – it still happened.

        • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

          You are literally asking for a “safe space”.

    • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

      Jesus was a refugee. How can you be so ignorant? And by the way, protesting against politicians is free speech. Deal with it.

  • disqus_PBnOP0sXke

    Do you live in fiction or in reality? Are you really using fictitious characters to spread your fallacious reasoning?
    “Zero accusations have been proven against him.”
    Zero accusations have been proven against the Clinton family.
    Zero accusations have been proven against immigrants and refugees living in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.
    Zero accusations have been proven against transgender people who just want to use a restroom.
    Oh wait…