“…come on, you have to agree that no one wants to hear nazis speaking in public, right?” says the other speaker during a debate panel at my college. The people participating are: a weak, partisan arbiter; a young liberal male; my friend from school. The two speakers are former students invited by the college. “Well, even if I don’t agree with their ideas, I think they should have the freedom to express them,” she answers calmly. “That way, other people can criticize them and maybe they’ll even change their mind. What is everyone so scared about, that a few people will be brainwashed into believing in the supremacy of their race? Come on, our society has grown out of those foolish ideas by now. And if a handful of people haven’t, it doesn’t matter whether it’s discussed or not.”
The other speaker shakes his head as my friend from school speaks. “But if we let those crazies say people of color…” I jokingly mutter “people of color” to myself. “… and jewish people are inferior to white people, it could undermine our modern values. What if they brainwash so many people that white supremacy becomes acceptable?”
“Oh please,” she answers. “Ok, ok,” the other speaker says. “Let’s make it simpler. What if you let jihadists go on television and preach about how westerners are degenerates? Would you let those people speak freely? People who twist otherwise-good-ideologies for their own purposes?” I find it funny he’s so concerned about anti-western propaganda coming from jihadists when we produce so much of that nationally.
“But that’s precisely the problem,” says my friend from school. “If people associated to ‘otherwise-good-ideologies’ are banned from speaking about their ideas, why not ban those ideologies directly? They’re easy to confuse.” The other speaker nods. “I agree it’s hard to know where to draw the line, but it doesn’t mean it’s not the best solution. That’s why we need reasonable people making those decisions.” I pity the poor confused panel member using the “good government solves all” argument.
“Then again,” my friend from school says, “What if the people who make those decisions are not reasonable, or are influenced by some doctrine? They may ban a certain religion or ideology, which has happened many times throughout history. That’s precisely why there’s an article in our constitution to grant all of us freedom of religion.” The other speaker smiles nervously. He can’t really fight the constitution. “The problem is,” he continues, “if these doctrines have enough supporters, they can’t be banned without political consequences for the politicians banning them!”
“Exactly!” she exclaims. “Then either an ideology is important enough that it must be discussed, or it doesn’t have much support to begin with, so it doesn’t matter if it is allowed to be defended in public!” Then she smiles and says jokingly, “And I thought you ‘liberals’ were all about defending ‘liberties.’”
Part of the audience smiles and applauds her comment. A young… girl? with pink hair boos her, and other people of indefinite gender join in the booing. To me, she’s won the debate. Her adversary is not precisely the brightest, though, and she has failed to win over many of the people in the room. But then, there’s only so much you can do in a college panel.
Slowly, through the following months, I begin to heal from my girlfriend’s death. Tol’s work is now something I can support wholeheartedly. My friend from school and I spend our days together, working throughout the day then going home to watch movies or tv shows at night. Everything is fine until one “fatidic” day. We make our usual orders and begin watching a new comedy. It’s so bad we end up making fun of it and having a great time at its expense. About eight minutes after we call the pizza place, we hear knocks on the door. “That was fast,” she says. I get up and go to the door, still laughing from the movie. Standing at the door is the brother of my dead girlfriend. His old rags stink. He clearly hasn’t showered in weeks… if not months.
“Aren’t you gonna let me in?” he asks drunkenly. His mouth smells even worse than his clothes. “No. Not like this,” I reply. I’m suddenly filled with anger, recalling mother, recalling my girlfriend… “I won’t accept this. Come back when you’re sober!” I shout before closing the door.
He kicks it right before I close it, hitting me with the door. I fall on my back. “Oh my god, are you ok!?” asks my friend from school. “I’m calling the police,” she says. “B-word you better not,” he threatens her, pointing with his right-hand index finger. “It’s ok, don’t worry…” I say to her. He steps into the house and opens the fridge. “Got any beer? I—” he says before puking all over the carpet.
“I don’t feel so well,” he says as he sits on the floor. My friend from school looks at me, clearly disturbed. But I can’t help it. I feel responsible for putting him in this position. I take him to the bathroom, remove his clothes, wash him and put him in my bed. All the while, she watches in silence. Finally he’s asleep and I head to the couch to catch some sleep myself.
She intercepts me. “He’s not your burden,” she says. “It wasn’t your fault, remember that.” I weep in silence, because the guilt over my girlfriend’s death overwhelms me. My friend from school puts my head against her shoulder, and I hug her. “Oh, what did I do…” I whisper, sobbing.