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Express yourself, but do so rationally

Joe Podelco / Photo editor

Lately, there’s been rioting and political unrest in Tunisia. The president has fled the country, and long-standing discontent with the government has erupted into riots in the street. CNN has reported tanks in the streets and the imposition of curfews.

I don’t pretend to be an expert in the politics of northern Africa. I know significantly less about the situation than I probably should. But the situation in Tunisia has me thinking about some of the rhetoric that has been thrown around in the United States in the past couple of years.

Since Barack Obama was elected in 2008, and started bringing about changes shortly after his inauguration in 2009, several groups have been talking about “taking back the country.” This slogan implies – or, really, comes right out and says – that the left-leaning policies proposed and endorsed by the Obama administration are un-American or are taking the country away from “real” Americans.

Taken on its own, the call to “take back the country” seems no more inflammatory than any other political slogan, designed to energize voters and change policy. But when you couple this with the people who came to political rallies with rifles, maps with targets over Democrats’ districts, and protesters spitting on members of Congress, this rhetoric sounds like a call to arms, and a call for a revolution.

Compare today’s American political climate to that of Tunisia, or of Iran after the highly contested elections in 2009. Martial law has not been imposed. None of the essential rights guaranteed to American citizens have been infringed – we still have a free press, the right to peaceably assemble, the right to bear arms. We can still criticize our own government. There are no tanks or armed soldiers on our streets. All things considered, things are pretty much how they’ve always been.

I’m not saying things here are perfect, or people shouldn’t protest our government. I believe anyone with a valid grievance against the government should voice that concern, and the government should not silence free speech. But grievances can and should be voiced peacably. In this day and age, when the Internet provides a forum for anyone with access to a computer to complain about any and everything, violence and the threat thereof is completely unneccessary.

Revolution is not a joke. It’s not political rhetoric. Political turmoil robs a country of lives, livelihoods and stability. Yes, revolution is sometimes necessary, but it is a last resort. So air your complaints, but take advantage of the channels available, and do so like a civil, rational adult.

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