Edie Knoop chants at student organized walkout after the Parkland school shooting (Lindy Rublaitus)
Edie Knoop chants at student organized walkout after the Parkland school shooting

Lindy Rublaitus

Activist Antagonism

May 14, 2019

Recently I learned about the word “libtard;” a word commonly used to describe me and many others dedicated to activism. My efforts to impact the politics of this nation are left-wing-centered and focus on gun violence prevention. The word “libtard” is defined by Urban Dictionary as “an individual, whose thinking process has been rendered impaired by political correctness and the failure to understand that people are responsible for their actions and the world does not owe lazy or stupid people a living.”

The fact that some of the City High population have labeled me this way does not surprise me. Many individuals, some of which are my friends, have told me they “don’t get involved in political stuff” or said that before meeting me they were scared of my presence due to my political appearance on social media. Only recently have I heard these sentiments encompassed by a single word.

The effects of this description are detrimental to the City High community because activist effort needs to stop being viewed as antagonistic and this view is enabled by phrases like “libtard.” The stigma and the antagonism against political action silences necessary voices in our community. Activism has lead to legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing discrimination based on national origin, sex, or religion, and the bump stock ban of 2018.  After the 2016 election when Donald Trump was elected, protests were organized by student activist groups. An example of these protests is the Women’s March, where communities gathered to support gender equality. When these groups first emerged, there was little doubt about why people wanted to make a statement.

But things have changed since then. Years have come and gone. All the while, the shock of today’s political climate has become the chilling norm. One walkout every year or so is sufficient to the group of students who view activism as an annoyance and constant walkouts are obnoxious. Even when the protests were seen as excessive to some students, the protests continued because we believed in what we were doing. However, students began to get frustrated with these movements, which led to backlash.

This resentment led to me no longer announcing community events I help organize to my classes. Last year I stood before my class and alerted my peers of an upcoming opportunity to write to their representatives about gun violence. When I presented this, a student in commented asking about why more political action was needed even though there had just been a walkout. Had we seen any changes? Had our representatives initiated any legislation?

This sentiment frustrated me deeply. My peers couldn’t see that the statement made through the walkout had no effect on the state legislature, so other action would be needed. This didn’t seem to affect the mindset of my classmates.

From that day on, I stopped announcing political events to my classes. I realized that many students in my classes would view these announcements as unnecessary, so no good could come of them. Comments like the one I mentioned previously have completely changed when and where I talk about my involvement with politics. I avoid the topic altogether when I’m able to and even when it’s brought up I’m timid about revealing my true involvement in politics out of fear that others will find me annoying. However, this annoyance is imperative to activism for everyone regardless of political affiliation. No matter what a student’s beliefs are, they should be happy with peers expressing their beliefs through activist efforts. Even if a someone disagrees with the reasoning behind a walkout, they should be delighted that their peers are using their First Amendment right to make their voices heard. Political action in a community should represent the policies that that community wants to see pass, and in order for that to happen, all must voice their concerns.

Many people are afraid of bothering others, especially in the Midwest. This shows itself when someone accidentally runs into a stranger and apologizes profusely or when someone agrees strongly with a political statement but not the action taken to make it heard. Midwesterners are afraid of bothering others. We are afraid of being political. The fact that many students have the privilege of ignoring or avoiding the horrible events that happen in this nation because they don’t affect them directly does not mean that politics are bad, scary, or bothering people. Though Iowa individually does not experience a large number of school shootings compared to the rest of the country, our legislation has repercussions. Illinois has many regulations put in place to control the distribution of gun sales throughout their states, especially in Chicago, where high crime rates persist due to the interstate distribution of guns. Iowa and surrounding states supply many of these weapons. Legislation in our state has more repercussions than citizens are aware of.

It is easy to ignore legislative repercussions such as these in this political climate. The fear of acknowledging these topics has unique reflections in the everyday world. The use of the word “libtard” is to criticize the obsession with political correctness in many left-wing activists, an expression and comment on a polarized environment. Though the polarized environment does create this fear, the fear is not without reason. Students should not view activism as antagonistically as it is seen in the current political climate. This stigma silences voices that are necessary to everyone. So I would urge you to refrain from insulting those who are doing what they see is needed and instead try to see why they care about these issues so much and empathize with them.


2 Responses to “Activist Antagonism”

  1. Sierra Reese on May 20th, 2019 7:30 pm

    I enjoyed reading this article a lot, thank you Nina. You are very well spoken. It is clear that you are passionate about your beliefs, which many of us in Iowa are not. I am one out of the many. However, I do have a few questions. How can I get involved without social media? I have no phone in the first place, so how will I know when these walkouts and protests take place? I feel like I am always missing out on the stuff I care about because I have no way of knowing. Should I join SSA or student senate? I’m not very sure what these groups do. Please help!

  2. Nina Lavezzo-Stecopoulos on October 8th, 2019 2:42 pm

    Hey Sierra! I’m sorry I’m getting back to you SO LATE and that it’s so hard without social media. If you interested in activism and joining please text me: (319)471-7938 and we can find some groups for you to join. Glad you enjoyed my article. This made my day.

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