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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
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Guest Opinion: The Perils of Both-sides-ism

U Student Ermiya Fanaeian condemns the University of Utah’s neutral position on Palestinian liberation, trans rights and racism.
The+John+R.+Park+Building+at+the+University+of+Utah+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+June+29%2C+2023.+%28Photo+by+Marco+Lozzi+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Marco Lozzi
The John R. Park Building at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on June 29, 2023. (Photo by Marco Lozzi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

In defense of the removal of Mecha de U of U from the Center for Equity and Student Belonging’s sponsored status, The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board wrote, “What [Mecha] doesn’t have the right to do is to stop other people and other organizations, on campus and elsewhere, from meeting to promote their views and demonstrate in support of their causes. Even if one of the causes might well be seen as a heinous stand against the rights of transgender people.”

This sentiment, expressed by both media sources and the University of Utah’s administration, reflects a political position that, for too long, has been portrayed as enlightened and fair: the position of remaining neutral to both sides. From the dignity of trans people to the mandate for Palestinian liberation, the insistence that vague and individualistic positions take priority over the right of oppressed people to resist continues to pollute mainstream political conversation. Even when siding with the oppressed seems entirely obvious, and required of us morally. 

What the proponents of granting right-wing forces full reign to organize without pushback fail to realize is just how partial this position actually is. As a political organizer, I’ve had the honor of working closely with the young and inspiring activists of Mecha. In one of the first of what would become a pattern of disputes with the U administration, they faced pushback from the U for an event they co-hosted with Armed Queers Salt Lake City, which I am an active organizer of.

The pushback from the U was over the advertising of the event, insisting that the flyers promoted a level of militancy that was not palatable enough and recommended they change the symbolism. This occurred shortly before a student organization plastered anti-trans propaganda all over campus, a clear breach of “equity, diversity and inclusion,” which was met with no pushback or recommendations of palatability. 

Rather, the propaganda was met with full defense from both institutional mandate and media apparatus, insisting resistance against it was a violation of free speech, attempting to persuade us to believe that, for trans and all oppressed people, resisting propaganda organized against them is equivalent to the consequences of the propaganda itself.

However, it does not escape us that the forces attempting to draw this equivalency were also leading the effort to pacify Mecha’s events, and stood in favor of the silencing they are constantly subject to. It also does not escape us that the law, the First Amendment in particular, was invoked to make these assertions. Yet, neither the law nor the First Amendment has ever truly stopped the repression of political movements, and the decades of McCarthyite attacks, which continue to this day. And so long as the First Amendment is shaped by the state and legitimized through a constitution created by a slave-owning class, it can never be neutral and without political alliance.

Indeed, transphobia, Zionism, racism and the history of anti-left witch hunts have been responsible for some of the most undeniable forms of silencing. With trans and queer activists consistently facing vigilante intimidation and Palestinian activists making up a mass wave of political prisoners, we must always ask, freedom of speech for who?

Clearly, it has never been for popular struggles.

To frame both sides as the same, to insist there is a right to bigotry that outweighs the struggles of oppressed people, undoubtedly benefits one side over the other. “Freedom of speech” is only invoked in favor of those who have it the most, the rest of us are far too much of a political threat to receive such benefit.

It is clear that both-sides-ism, the phenomenon of prioritizing centrism above any substantive goal for our world, has left us weak as the forces of fascism continue to grow. If we wish to adequately organize and build power amongst our communities, it can no longer take place within institutions or through their regulations. We have to be willing to build and mobilize with the understanding that institutions are antithetical to activist projects. Relegating our movements to obsolete diversity campaigns, activism must always take place outside of the U.

It is also clear that the people, on the U’s campus and all over the world, have chosen a side. As hundreds of thousands have shown up in favor of Palestinian liberation and energy on college campuses continues to grow in favor of trans liberation, the side of resistance strengthens its numbers by the day.

If there are two sides, the masses have shown up for only one of them and unequivocally rejected the other. Centrism remains entirely unpopular, while commitment to political struggle presents a promising future for all of us.

 

— Ermiya Fanaeian, Student at the University of Utah

 

The Daily Utah Chronicle publishes guest op-eds written by faculty, elected officials and other members of the public on topics relevant to students at the University of Utah. The Chronicle welcomes guest op-ed pitches here.

View Comments (8)
About the Contributor
Marco Lozzi, Photographer
Born in Texas and raised by Italian parents, Marco Lozzi grew up with two vastly different cultures. Now a sophomore at the U, he is majoring in communication with a journalism emphasis while also minoring in photography and Italian. He joined the Chrony to gain experience working as a photojournalist for a larger entity. When he's not taking or editing photos, he can be found hitting the slopes, napping, or making pasta.

Comments (8)

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  • M

    MislaJan 26, 2024 at 8:17 pm

    When confronted, the oppressor resorts to ad hominem attacks. It is those attacks that puncture holes in their rhetoric.

    Reply
  • M

    MislaJan 18, 2024 at 3:37 pm

    Neutrality in the face of oppression gives a safe space to injustice

    Reply
    • J

      John HedbergJan 19, 2024 at 9:41 am

      Unless you allow people to discuss and consider the facts given by both sides of an argument, how do you determine what’s just and what’s not? “Neutral” pertains to agreeing to listen to both sides as equals, and then deciding what’s just based on the merits of the evidence provided by both sides: “neutral” until you’ve seen ALL the evidence and can make a decision about what’s just and what’s not, about what’s right and what’s not.

      If you don’t commit to being “neutral” long enough to hear all the evidence before deciding who’s guilty of what, then chances are good that you’re giving leverage to one side, allowing them to manipulate your feelings into doing things you might otherwise think are unjust yourself, and what if the evidence you ignored turns out to prove that the side you just allowed to manipulate you into doing unjust things yourself was actually the “oppressor”, claiming to be the oppressed so that they would have a pretext or excuse to commit more injustice?

      I ask, because this is what history shows happens again and again and again and again… (and again and again, ad nauseum). It’s why the Constitution is so adamant about allowing every person accused to have a “day in court” to present their evidence, and why statues of Justice are always blind-folded, indicating they are neutral regarding who is giving the evidence on both sides (no favorites), but listening to the scientific data alone in making conclusions about the truth.

      Food for thought~ Will you deny the science by refusing to look at all the evidence? 😉😋

      Reply
  • J

    JohnJan 15, 2024 at 1:23 pm

    In USA, we are very good # ignoring such issues, hoping they will “solve themselves” or disappear.

    Reply
  • L

    Liam ButterfieldJan 15, 2024 at 10:56 am

    I enjoyed this article for impartial reasons

    Reply
  • J

    John HedbergJan 15, 2024 at 9:25 am

    The people of Jewish descent settled the area of Palestine thousands of years before Christ, so they are the natives of Palestine. After the Nazi’s exterminated more than 6 million men, women, and children (much like Hamas “fighters” did to Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu civilians on October 7th), people around the world donated money for Jewish survivors to buy property in the land (Palestine) their ancestors had been dispossessed from. Jewish people today are European, Asian, African, North and South American and otherwise because they were forced to flee to all corners of the world when their homeland was repeatedly occupied, so there’s now no way to know how a Jewish person looks by sight, which is why Hamas kidnappers, rapists and murderers couldn’t tell that they were also committing genocide against fellow Palestinians on October 7th, as well as against visitors from around the globe, a great many of whom were minorities who were oppressed in their own homelands, but not in modern Israel, where they had equal legal and voting rights, where it was legal to be a woman and still drive a car, and where having a different lifestyle doesn’t target you for murder… unless Hamas or other Marxists happen to go on a genocidal killing spree in the name of an oppression that never happened, when they themselves are actual colonialists in Palestine.

    A large and growing number of post-surgical transgender persons are realizing in retrospect that they were not feeling at home in their own body for reasons which had nothing to do with gender, and now that they’ve chosen irreversible removal of body organs that can never be replaced (for instance, they can never have children), there have been a growing number of suicides reported by the leading transgender institutes in Europe, which are a few years ahead of this country when it comes to treating true gender dysphoria. My question is why some of you are apparently so transphobic that you deny, suppress, and refuse to inclusively #Listen to the diverse lived experiences of suffering people whose feelings may differ from your own, by showing them empathy and compassion as if you value their humanity the same way you value others. Why do you devalue the humanity of these transgender people whose experience may be diverse from your own?

    Therefore, YAF did not speak hatefully to ‘all trans people’ just because they allowed Chloe Cole and others to speak their lived experiences of what happens when surgery and hormone blockers turn out to be the wrong answer for someone not feeling at home in their own body. There are other reasons besides gender that can cause individuals to not feel at home in themselves, and so showing the consequences when people choose permanent bodily changes which cannot be reversed, who find out later that this was not the correct treatment to help them, seems like very basic due diligence in assisting every person to make the best choice for themselves given their own circumstances.

    It’s the same regarding abortion. Abortion is a choice that takes thoughtful consideration and emotional maturity to navigate well, so it’s worth being aware that a percentage of persons who choose abortion face emotional trauma that can endure for years. Not everyone does, and not everyone faces regret from hormone blockers and transgender surgery, but it’s only right to give individuals all the information known so that they can make their own best adult choice, which can help a lot when it comes to facing unexpected consequences after the fact, so you don’t feel blind-sided by feelings you never anticipated. It’s like knowing the side effects of taking the Pill: it doesn’t mean that adults shouldn’t take that option, but it’s prudent and compassionate to let persons know the possible consequences to their short- and longer-term mental and physical health, so we can take fullest responsibility for our own lives.

    People with male genitalia (no matter how they identify) should not be sharing bathrooms or changing spaces with people with female genitalia. It’s important to respect the feelings and safety of trans individuals, and it’s just as important to respect the feelings and safety of every other person in the room, since suppressing and dehumanizing anyone’s well-being can cause anguish and suicidal feelings, no matter how these persons identify: that’s humanity which we all share equally, which is why it’s important that everyone’s rights and well-being are considered and weighed with the equal caring value for each person impacted, every single individual person. (#Listen to women’s voices, with respect)

    No one gets precedence. Otherwise, someone is being systematically devalued and dehumanized as if they have less value, which is morally wrong and reprehensible, like saying bigotry is right, when we all acknowledge that hatred of any human being is wrong. No exceptions, and everyone’s value is equally represented and considered.

    Mecha attempted to silence and suppress the voices of trans individuals and others whose lived experiences don’t agree with their feelings, like saying only the feelings of those who agree with Mecha have value, or more to the point, only the human beings who agree with Mecha’s feelings have equal human value in the eyes of Mecha. They shout about hatred and bigotry being wrong in the middle of practicing hateful bigoted silencing of trans voices they disagreed with at the YAF event. Isn’t the definition of hypocrisy to dehumanize innocent others for hateful behavior which you’re actually practicing yourself, Mecha?

    To respect everyone’s humanity and dignity, without question, everyone should be allowed to use public restrooms, but people with male genitalia (trans or otherwise) should not be allowed to share bathrooms or changing spaces with people with female genitalia, since this protects and respects the safety and well-being of everyone equally. Is it so hard to respect everyone feelings as if their humanity and concerns are equal to your own? This is basic Sesame Street stuff~! So is not being labeled genocidal for defending grandparents, women, and children against genocide “from the River to the Sea” when 20% of Israeli citizens, with full civil and voting rights, are Palestinians who’ve renounced jihad, living in peace with their brothers and sisters in Israel (not exactly genocide, except to the proponents of genocide against them~!).

    Is it really disrespecting your safety and feelings to equally respect the safety and feelings of everyone else involved, because if it is, this may not be a problem with the campus culture so much as a problem of individual maturity, respect, and considerate compassion being weighed on everyone’s behalf, because the consequences are the same, no matter which human being they’re affecting, and how is your humanity more valuable than others: it’s certainly not less, and we all agree on that.

    Reply
    • B

      BrynneJan 22, 2024 at 1:25 pm

      Greetings John, I hope this message finds you well.

      I’m writing because I see you frequently commenting on posts, and I’m confused a bit by your general messages that I’ve seen over time. You verbalize strong support for listening to others (generally those who’s messages are in line with your own), but I wonder if some of your free time could be spent applying these same messages to your own practices as well? (with regards to those who’s messages are not so in line with your own).

      You are always recommending we listen to all viewpoints, and hear one another with open ears and a loving mindset, yet you continually fall strictly on “one side of the aisle” and don’t appear to really hold space or have the capacity to consider viewpoints that are different to yours. That is, while you clearly can name some reasons that have led you to your own viewpoints on things, it seems you are not able to really see that others have evidence that leads them to their beliefs as well, when those beliefs are different from the ones you hold. You state your opinions like they are facts and don’t seem to hold the capacity for nuance or complexity, which is innate in all of these issues. (Obviously, if they were simple, they would not be so divisive and difficult to come to a consensus on). Have you considered that it might benefit you to practice recognizing where facts end and individual opinions/interpretations begin? To consider how your own biases and preconceptions may subject you to some of the pitfalls that you implore others (generally those who disagree with you), to avoid? And even to consider the limitations of “statistics” and “facts,” and how numbers are frequently spun and misrepresented to form evidence for certain viewpoints (not that they are not very useful tools and important for consideration, when viewed with cautious scrutiny)?

      Fortunately you are clearly blessed with free time to engage in this self-reflective behavior!

      As I mentioned before, I have read many of your comments and am quite familiar with your lines of reasoning, your opinions, and your communication style. I would be happy to continue to engage if you demonstrate an interest in self-reflection, and I appreciate your understanding that I will respectfully refrain from further discourse if your response to this is more of the same. I am regrettably not blessed with free time in the same way you are.

      With loving kindness,
      Brynne

      Reply
      • J

        John HedbergJan 23, 2024 at 9:28 am

        I grew up in an area slightly to the Left of San Francisco, so I’ve seen how policies advocated by The Chronic and other postulates of the Marxist/Equity hate-religion have turned out in the lived experiences of actual intersectional people, who’ve been more oppressed by Equity’s prophets than they ever were by whichever villains Equity orders them to hate-target this week “from the River to the Sea”. I’ve also been personally affected by them here in Utah, both on campus where tolerance is low (self-reflection, Brynne?) and discrimination has been rampant to the point of censorship here at The Chronic, and where I’ve frequently faced harassment, and even assault, but off campus as well, where Utahn grandparents were targeted for Race-murder by Equity’s medical S.S., who attempted to deny them life-saving COVID care by rationing critical COVID medicine according to genetics, which is something the Nazi’s were convicted of during the Nuremburg Trials 75 years ago, Crimes Against Humanity. These things tend to influence a person’s opinion, if you can believe that~! 😋

        My viewpoints come from my experience, not from anonymously funded algorithms which require no more reflection than a missionary set loose with the latest fatwa, just obedience to tired old re-tread Marxist dogmas that have killed tens of millions of innocent human beings across the planet throughout the 20th Century and into the 21st. But I feel your pain~! 🤪😂

        You could try opening a book sometime and see if any less narcissistic viewpoints suggest themselves to you… I understand the Terrible Two’s can be very traumatic~! Let me know if you have any better suggestions about how to spend my time as a student than reflecting on the things I read, observe, and think critically about, since that’s literally the purpose of a liberal arts education, not to mention journalism: isn’t that why we’re all here?

        Cheerfully, with Love

        Reply