Is Reclaim taking a turn for the worse? A response to ‘A tearing issue’

This is a response to A Tearing Issue by Tess Peacock, which criticized students like this author who disagree with Reclaim HLS on Reclaim’s recent practices of tearing down and moving dissenting posters. The author of this piece wrote an earlier piece titled Reclaim HLS, please stop destroying yourself.

Tess, thank you for taking the time to respond to my worries. I am glad to hear that you are out there listening. Unfortunately, I feel that my message has not come across clearly enough, so I am happy to take the chance to clarify.

Let me put one thing out there right up front: Yes, I am not an active member of your movement. I have never claimed to be — I have not slept in Belinda Hall like you, I have not staged walk-ins like you, I have not had discussions with Bill Barlow (thank God!) like you. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t there. I was there all the way. My voice might not have been as loud as yours but it was heard — in opinion polls, in community meetings, in the Shield committee. It was the voice of the silent majority of this university that has carried you to your victory.

But this is not about me. This is about you. You are the group who is demanding change. You are the group who is demanding attention. You are the group that is fighting for a fairer and more equal society. Or so I thought. Your behavior during the last days is, unfortunately, pointing in the complete opposite direction. You claim to have a right to decide what is being said and done in certain areas of our university — you and you alone.

Free speech to you is “the holy cow of democracy.” A cow you are all too ready to slaughter for the political goals that you — and I — hold so dear.

Take it not from me, but from history: This is a bad idea.

No matter how good your intentions, if they make you silence other people, then something is wrong with them. This has been true in the French Revolution as it has been on countless other occasions. As a daughter of East Germany, I am happy to provide insight on the matter if you actually choose to engage. And believe me, I would love to engage. I have so many questions. Like many others, I am wondering – where exactly does your movement lead? Is this how you actually think a society should be run? Opening a place for “diversity and inclusion” just to shut everyone out who is not of your opinion? The irony seems to be lost on you.

But let me restate this once and for all: I am not your enemy, I am your friend. And as a friend, I am doing what I would want my friends to do for me when I am not seeing clearly: Stand up and tell me the truth when I have become too blind to see it. That is exactly what has happened here. Your movement has turned self-righteous, single-minded, flat-out authoritarian. Against this backdrop, your invitations to “talk” and “engage” ring hollow. However good the goals are that you pursue — if you want to pursue them in a society that only values your opinion and no one else’s, then this is a society I cannot stand to live in. Therefore, with all due respect, I disagree.

Marlen Thaten is an LLM of the Class of 2016.

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