This Has Gone Too Far: Another Open Letter to Chancellor Falwell of Liberty University

Chancellor/President Jerry Falwell, Jr. has doubled down on his gun position since the controversy broke out over his Convocation statements (if you haven’t seen that, please read here). When I first addressed this controversy, I left to the side the arguments about guns on campuses, but now I fell it is time to deal with that issue.

Jerry Falwell, Jr. has gone too far this time. He has gone from dangerous rhetoric to placing students in danger with his new policy allowing firearms in the dorms. To make matters worse, he justified this by bringing in the example of the Virginia Tech shootings, via a University statement: “Liberty University’s  policy of allowing students, faculty, and staff to carry weapons on campus was as a result of a school shooting at Virginia Tech, a campus about an hour from campus. Other Convocation remarks by President Falwell after similar tragedies further underscores our belief that we should exercise our Second Amendment rights to protect ourselves in the event something similar should occur on our campus.” Once again, I will write another letter to Chancellor Falwell. I cannot be quiet any longer on the bigger issue here.

16 December 2015
Jerry L. Falwell, Jr.
Chancellor and President
Liberty University
1971 University Blvd
Lynchburg, VA 24515

Chancellor/President Falwell,

Here we are again. This time you have implemented a policy allowing firearms not only in the classrooms and campus, but in the dormitories of Liberty University. Your statement, via the University that you have complete control over, indicates that you are motivated by the Virginia Tech massacre of April 16, 2007 in your idea that guns make campuses safer. There have been many articles and letters written about the statistics on mass shootings and reduced gun control. However, I’d like to share my experiences, both as a Liberty alumnus who lived on campus for four years and as a native of Radford, Virginia, which as I’m sure you’re aware is approximately a 15 minute drive from Tech.

April 16, 2007 is a day that will always stick with me in my memory. I remember my school being locked down, worried there was a second shooter on campus who had fled and could end up in Radford. I remember going to the Virginia Tech convocation the next day, sitting in the overflow area in Lane Stadium and listening to President Bush say this: “Yesterday began like any other day. Students woke up, and they grabbed their backpacks and they headed for class. And soon the day took a dark turn, with students and faculty barricading themselves in classrooms and dormitories — confused, terrified, and deeply worried.” Thankfully for students at Virginia Tech, they did not have to worry that the person barricading with them was going to shoot them in the back. Classrooms and dormitories are a place of safety, a place of refuge, even in the darkest of times.

I say this not only from listening to President Bush and hearing the stories of those who ran to the safest areas they have found, but I know about this from personal experience. April 1, 2009 is also a day that will be in my memory forever. You may not remember this day, but that is the day that Radford University went on lockdown due to a gunman on campus. It turned out to not be a mass shooting, but that doesn’t change the terror. I was a student finishing my high school studies through Liberty University’s Online Academy, and I found a social life with Radford University’s Campus Crusade. Despite not being a college student, the CRU people accepted me into their group and that was a place I felt accepted. On that day, we were meeting in the Bonnie, the new student center at Radford on the eastern edge of campus. As we were finishing our meeting and preparing to head home, the word came from the RUPD: a gunman has been spotted in the Bonnie and the campus is on lockdown. We ended up leading the students in the Bonnie to the upstairs classrooms with no windows and one entry point. We collected the pepper spray from students around us and locked into the room. While some of the praise leaders led those who wanted to sing in songs of praise to maintain calm, a few of us (including me) stood at that one door, protecting against any breach. In the panic, any person with a gun that was not the police would have been treated as a threat.  We were ready to possibly sacrifice our lives to keep a gunman out of that room. I cannot imagine if a “good guy with a gun” had knocked on that door. We would have immediately sprayed pepper spray and attacked in defense of that room of innocent people. There would not have been time to ask, “are you the shooter?” or “are you here to kill us?”. I also guarantee you the police would have been unable to determine the difference.

In addition to my experiences at Virginia Tech and Radford, I was a student at Liberty University for four years. As you are aware, Liberty requires traditional students to live on campus until they are 21 years old unless they receive permission to live off campus. This means that most students must spend at least three years as an on campus student. While Liberty does not allow alcohol on campus, firearms in a dorm are still dangerous. I wish I could say that I am sure no Liberty student would ever get mad and shoot a roommate, suitemate, dorm mate, or a person from another dorm, but my four years at Liberty tells me differently. For me, the dorms were a place of emotional safety from a campus often hostile toward my beliefs. The dorms were a safe space to discuss issues that I fundamentally disagreed with both other students and the University on. College is supposed to be a place where you can discuss faith, beliefs, ideas, and opinions without the fear of someone walking into their room and threatening to shoot you with the .22 they have under the bed.

When you combine the attitude you showed toward Muslims in your convocation speech with your policy change to increase firearms on campus by allowing them in student’s rooms, I fear for Liberty University’s continued safety. I fear for the small minority of Muslim students who live on campus, enduring the attempts to convert them to live in a place where alcohol and sex are not a large part of the college experience. Liberty was a place that provided a college atmosphere that allowed for education without the distractions of a roommate or suitemate keeping you awake because he/she is having sex all night or comes in at 3am drunk. Liberty offered a place where students could explore being themselves, even if the curriculum did not line up with my personal beliefs. Liberty gave me a place to truly think about who I wanted to be with less distractions. However, if I had children, I would never ask them to choose a University where their roommate may have a weapon in the next bed.

I call on you to change the policy or to resign and let someone who will change it take over. College students should never fear that there is someone with a gun in their dorm, not to mention in the bed next to them. This has gone too far; you have made your conservative political point. Now repeal this policy before a student is found shot to death in their bed.

Once again,

William King Scott ’13

An Open Letter to Jerry Falwell, Jr.

5 December 2015
Jerry L. Falwell, Jr.
Chancellor and President
Liberty University
1971 University Blvd
Lynchburg, VA 24515

 

Dear Chancellor Falwell,
As an alumnus of Liberty University (2013), I was deeply disturbed by your recent comments at convocation regarding Muslims, terrorism, and firearms. There are many problems with your statement, but I will address two here that go beyond my disagreement with your personal political views and show larger problems with the example you are setting for the students at present.
First, you appeal to the ability to conceal carry firearms, even going so far as to claim you are carrying a weapon at that very moment. While I disagree with the University’s decision to increase the danger to students by allowing concealed carry of firearms on the campus, I am even more disturbed by your self-admitted lack of knowledge about the laws regarding how you can carry your firearm. You state that you are unaware of whether you can pull your weapon out to demonstrate your point about firearms: “Is it illegal to pull it out, I don’t know”. If, as you believe, law-abiding citizens should be allowed to carry firearms on your university’s campus, then you have a minimal obligation to be knowledgeable about the laws that you must follow.
Second, you make the following claim directly after claiming to not know the laws surrounding your open carry: “I’ve always thought if more good people had conceal carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed us”. This shows one of two things: that you believe in preemptive killing of Muslims, or that you believe Muslims are terrorists and that concealed carry is important to be able to kill them. Based on the “clarification” to ABC 13 News (“Falwell says he meant to refer to ‘terrorists’ not all Muslims”), I believe you meant the latter. This mindset perpetuates xenophobic mindsets against Muslims and declares them to be terrorists because you evaluate all Muslims through the lens of the worst who practice a religion. May I remind you that Robert Dear, a conservative Christian evangelical, recently went on a terrorist attack against a Planned Parenthood in Colorado, yet nobody is calling all evangelical Christians terrorists. ISIS is clearly a global problem, but demonizing all Muslims only helps their cause. I would not be surprised to see your comments in an ISIS recruiting materials to show that the West is seeking to kill Muslims.
Having lived on campus at Liberty for four years, I am not naïve enough to believe that Liberty will ever become a place where Democrats like me will ever be in the majority. However, I do believe that there is a way to practice your conservative beliefs that does not feed into xenophobia and fear messaging that “the Muslims are out to get us”. While I don’t agree with firearms on campus, at a minimum you have a duty to the students to be certain of the laws and regulations that govern your firearm policy. At a minimum, you have the duty to teach the students that they can practice their faith without threatening violence towards large groups of people based on their religion and stereotypes.
The most shocking thing for me is that both of those lines received laughter and applause from the required audience. You set the tone of the discourse at Liberty. As the chancellor and president, your words carry heavy weight with the student body. Additionally, Liberty’s history and status as the educational heart of the religious right places your words in a powerful position in the conservative movement. Unfortunately, you have chosen words that not only create fear, xenophobia, and lax understanding of the laws surrounding firearms, but you have passed those values onto a student body. As an alumnus, I stand with the current Liberty students (both Republican and Democrat) openly disagreeing with your poor choice of words. I stand with the Islamic communities who you have declared to be terrorists while they only desire the same thing that lies at the heart of Liberty’s existence: freedom of belief and the freedom to peacefully practice religion.

Sincerely,

William King Scott
B.S., Government, Liberty University ‘13
M.A., Communication and Advocacy, James Madison University ‘15

Joe Should Run.

There has been much speculation on how the CNN/Facebook Democratic debate in Las Vegas affects the potential Joe Biden campaign. David Axelrod published an article on CNN entitled “The man who wasn’t there: How debate affects Joe Biden“. Axelrod argues that Clinton “did what she needed to do” to secure her place and make a Biden campaign less likely. He went so far as to declare, “maybe the biggest loser was the man who wasn’t there”. I don’t like to make a habit of disagreeing with Axelrod, but I do. Strongly. I think the Democratic debate shows Biden where his path to the nomination and the presidency is.

Joe cannot win the nomination without taking support from both Bernie Sanders and Clinton. Let’s look at each opponent separately, starting with Clinton. Hillary has three major weaknesses, only one of which the debate helped her with: the emails, Black Lives Matter, and the perception of her as unprincipled. As far as the email scandal, Bernie Sanders gave her a huge assist by claiming the American people are tired of hearing about her “damn emails”. Additionally, the GOP is starting to hurt itself here with the Benghazi committee falling apart. Even if the email scandal mountain becomes a molehill, the damage is already done. People see Hillary as an opportunist with no spine, and the email scandal only fuels that narrative. Hillary didn’t help herself on that at the debate with the TPP flip-flop response being below the standard needed to handle a major policy change. Axelrod notes that Hillary majorly flubbed that question, but I believe he underestimates how that feeds the narrative of Hillary as a spineless politician. Even if it’s not true, perception becomes reality in politics, and the flip-flop label devastated Mitt Romney in 2012. Additionally, Hillary still is weak on race issues. Even after getting a bailout from Anderson Cooper, who rephrased the question for her, Hillary’s answer was still underwhelming, talking about “these children” and “communities of color” instead of Black Lives Matter. For Joe, the path is to present himself as a trustworthy alternative to Hillary. Joe Biden, for all of his gaffes, is perceived as a trustworthy, honest person. He needs to capitalize on that and present himself as a tell-it-as-it-is alternative to Hillary. He can steal away some of the people who reluctantly have bought into the Clinton campaign because they see Sanders as unelectable. However, he must explain how and why he has changed from his 1994 support and advocacy for a major anti-crime bill that made parole harder to come by and ended Pell Grants for inmates. He has begun that with his April piece on community policing for the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU. If Joe can successfully show support for Black Lives Matter, he can further cut into Hillary’s support.

As for Joe versus Bernie Sanders, the case is very different. There are two viable attacks on Sanders that Joe has. First is the electability question. There is a legitimate concern as to whether Bernie can win the general election if the GOP nominates a candidate like Rubio or Bush. Bernie’s “democratic socialism”, noble and smart as it might be, does not help the average undecided voter, who only hears “socialism”. As Anderson Cooper said in the debate, the ad writes itself. Once again, perception is reality here, and Sanders’ insistence on using the word “socialism”, even in the intelligent and nuanced way he does, is going to make it hard for him to win over older undecided voters who remember the Cold War and associate “socialism” with the Soviets and a grand ideological war for the soul of society. Joe can advocate many of the same positions without the “socialist” label. Secondly, Bernie has a major problem with the issue of gun control. Bernie gave a less-than-convincing answer in the debate about his vote to shield gun manufacturers from lawsuits, opening the door to a Clinton attack. Biden can easily steal a solid number of progressive supporters from Bernie by making gun violence a core issue in this election and positioning himself as the candidate that will finish the work there. He is already in charge of the issue for the White House, and he could argue (with good reason) that Sanders will weaken the work he has already started there.

Biden has one obvious card up his sleeve that neither Clinton nor Sanders has: Joe has the bully pulpit of the White House. In addition to chairing the gun violence reduction effort, Biden has begun to increase his national profile by being a major part of the Papal visit, hosing a luncheon for Chinese president Xi Jinping during the latter’s recent state visit to Washington, and his recent UN visit that included covering for President Obama in chairing a panel on ISIS and meeting with global leaders that included the leaders of Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Japan. Obama has seemed willing to hand over duties and opportunities for Biden to show that he can handle the Oval Office as his own, and Biden has been ready and able to do so.

With both Sanders and Clinton showing weaknesses that Biden can take advantage of, along with having access to the Holy Grail of Democratic data (the Obama/Biden campaign lists), there is a clear opening for a Biden campaign. The debate highlighted those openings, leaving one thing for Biden supporters to be.

Fired up, Ready for Joe.

*Note that this is not an endorsement of Biden in the primary, should he run. I want to see what Joe’s campaign looks like and does before I make a primary decision (not that it matters much who I support).

Fight Song- Introduction Post

This time this is my fight song

Take-back-my-life song

Prove-I’m-alright song

My power’s turned on

Starting right now I’ll be strong

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care

If nobody else believes

Cause I’ve still got

A lot of fight left in me

Rachel Platten, Fight Song

I’ve decided that I also want another blog to talk about politics. I will also be updating my China blog regularly, but I wanted the blog about my experiences in China and the blog about politics to be separate. For the record, this blog will be about American politics and issues. It may touch on international politics from time to time, but I will avoid discussing Chinese politics, and I will not approve any questions about Chinese politics. Just as you don’t go into someone’s house as an invited guess and tell them how to set their table, it is not my place or job to talk about Chinese politics. China may be mentioned, but only as an aside as part of a story on US politics. 

Disclaimers done, here is what I will be talking and writing about. I feel that I shouldn’t disconnect from American politics while I’m over here, as I know I am not planning to be in China forever. I feel I have a powerful perspective and voice on politics, and I feel that I have a duty to making America a better place. It may be naive to think I can make a difference from over here, but I don’t care. I also just enjoy it!

As for the format, I am inspired by a lot of things. One thing that inspires me often is music (as those of you in my grad school program know), so there will many times be song lyrics that start a post. Some of the posts will be very clinical (I think that’s the right word?) about issues, and some will be very personal. Some will be well-supported, and some will be rants. Most will be my thoughts, though I may turn to reposting from time to time.  If I write a post in the Onion-style sarcasm, I’ll make a note. 

The inspiration from this came from two songs that came up today: Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” and Katy Perry’s “Roar”. Fight Song talks about still having that fire in your bones, not caring what other people think of you, and fighting no matter what. Roar talks about knowing your strength and knowing that you are a champion and that, despite being held back by circumstances, other people, or yourself, you have the power to roar. You see the influence in the blog title “Roaring Left” and in the first thing I post being the “Fight Song” chorus. 

“One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.”– President Barack Obama

My political career (if you want to call it that), has shown that one voice can change a city. My goal is to roar my way to changing a state, a nation, and the world. And I don’t really care if nobody else believes, I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me.