By now anyone familiar with Vassar College knows about the protest scheduled by the Westboro Baptist Church. We are targeted because of our inclusive community and acceptance of LGTBQIA students. You have most likely heard of the enormous response, as students and alumni join to turn this into a moment of unity and pride in defense of love and inclusiveness. And to this I say: good for Vassar—especially the students—for responding so resoundingly and positively to such a hateful, distressing antagonism! I am proud of my community and its immediate outpouring of love, support, art and activism..
But it is not enough. This attack is not isolated, but emblematic of a larger social issue. Although WBC is a fringe hate group condemned by nearly all, their views are merely more extreme, offensively stated versions of beliefs shared by many, including politicians.
Vassar students have been able to use the WBC attacks to catalyze a great coming together, a positive movement many say they will carry on past this one protest. I say go for it, and then some. Some have commented about the media attention the WBC is likely to draw, and the ways in which we can harness this attention and communicate our message of inclusion and equality. I say go for it, and then some. The young people in this country have already shown their power with the immense impact our votes have had in recent elections. I say go for it, and then some. Let’s do more than vote; let’s set the agenda!
It’s about time our generation rose and stood up for itself and its beliefs. Why not take a cue from many of our parents and make hipsters the new hippies? Both movements have distinctive music and style, and are nonconformist subcultures that arose in similar demographic bands, albeit in different decades. The outpouring of love and art I have seen on campus in response to the WBC attacks is reminiscent of nothing so much as the peace and love center of hippie-ism. All that hipsters still need in order to have the same immense cultural impact is social and political activism. So let’s take this energy and run with it, going beyond the hippies by reaching across subcultures, demographics and political parties to unite around this issue. Young people favor the freedom to love, and want to eliminate discrimination on that basis (70% of Americans under 30 favor gay marriage rights, according to the New York Times).
Gay rights is the civil rights issue of our generation. It is time to look outside our bubble and see how far we still have to go before we can truly reach “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” “liberty and justice for all,” and “created equal.” It’s not enough just to wait around for things to somehow fix themselves, or even until we are old enough to be counted among the ‘adult’ demographic in national polls. As hippies stood up to protest the Vietnam War, I call upon young people across America now to stand up and rally for the rights of all Americans to be who they are and love who they love. Let the energy generated at Vassar in response to the WBC be the catalyst for a unified, motivated youth social justice movement. It is true what people say—this is bigger than the WBC, bigger than any individual one of us, bigger than Vassar, bigger than New York. As the phoenix is reborn from fire, let us take the weapons of hate and transform them into tools of peace, the kind we can believe in. So to those at Vassar who are already working: keep spreading the word. To everyone else: join us!
What makes this incident different from all others? Why should this spark off a national movement when so many other atrocities have not? My answer is: why not? Energy is already being generated. People are already standing up to say: ‘enough’. So do so, peacefully and wisely and gloriously. And don’t let the energy wane. Let it grow and spread our joy and openness to others, asking them to hear the call and rise up in defense of all rights. Like the hippies, let us be the youth who changed the country with a simple message of love for all. We’re not so different from them. I mean, hey, we both love rainbows.
—Mira Singer ‘14 is an independent Storytelling major.