Torching a political adversary’s home might seem like something straight out of the darkest pages of a history book, but this was the reality for Peyton Lofton this Saturday morning. Peyton is an activist with the Tulane University chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). He returned home to find that the door to his campus dormitory had been set on fire. The following day, three suspects were arrested on charges of aggravated arson.
While my friend Peyton and his roommate are both safe, instances like this stir a wide array of emotions: Anger, fear, worry, disgust, or just a simple demand for justice. Given the circumstances, many of these feelings may be perfectly justified. But now is not the time to allow raw impulse to regain control of the narrative; it is time for Americans across the spectrum to take a hard look at the conditions that produce disappointing events such as this.
America was once a place where people could respectfully disagree. Whether we stood differently on economics, foreign policy, or any disagreement on the proper role of government in our lives, people across the aisle could at least acknowledge that tolerance, civility and freedom of speech benefited everyone. Now, we are seeing these values stripped from our college curricula, mainstream media and popular culture. A willingness to engage in open dialogue is misinterpreted as weakness, while resentment and hatred are celebrated as strengths.
And this is not an isolated incident. The mob rule of silencing or shutting down speakers has become a norm at America’s institutions. Last month, an activist at UC-Berkeley was assaulted just for recruiting on campus.
Whether it’s attempting to shut down events, punching political rivals in the face, or setting their doors on fire, these actions run counter to America’s core values. These are the actions of people who do not recognize the standards which have always defined our country and made it unique: free expression; ideological diversity; and civil disagreement.
This is precisely why YAL exists — because we refuse to see violence, censorship, and political intimidation normalized. You will never find a YAL student smashing a socialist’s window or setting someone’s home on fire. This is not only because we recognize the strength of our ideas, but because we understand that the freedom to share ideas is the only way we can improve society. As we like to say in YAL, good ideas do not require intimidation, harassment, or force.
I commend Peyton on his composure, strength and resiliency. Like all of our activists, he understands that the road to individual liberty means working hard to win the hearts and minds of our peers.
Even when our voices are being silenced, our rights are being threatened, and violence is being levied against us, we will advance toward our vision of a stronger, freer, and more prosperous republic.
Let’s create an America where the best ideas win, not those backed by the force of fear.
• Cliff Maloney is the president of Young Americans for Liberty