As the seasons begin to change, fresh controversy has arrived on campus as Boston University gets set to hosts conservative pundit Ben Shapiro for a talk Wednesday evening.
Many students have signed petitions demanding that Shapiro’s invitation be revoked and there have been several protests on campus, with more to come outside the venue. Even the poster advertising his talk has been defaced multiple times.
While many students do not agree with Shapiro’s political views, that doesn’t necessarily mean he should be prevented from speaking on campus. While it may seem hard to believe, Shapiro’s visit has the potential to allow some students to have important personal reflections.
As Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore said, Shapiro’s visit should allow the student body to engage in a meaningful conversation about their beliefs.
What’s more, the controversy surrounding the pundit’s visit illustrates a larger theme of “cancel culture” that has grown during the presidency of Donald Trump.
Cancel culture has been described as a form of public shaming, where a person or organization is boycotted or belittled because they say or do something that does not align with the accepted view of the general public.
Since Trump has taken office, both liberals and conservatives have played a role in this culture, with each party calling the other out for doing or saying certain things.
Former President Barack Obama made comments about cancel culture in a recent panel, in which he said bringing about real change does not mean being judgmental and “casting stones.”
In his speech, Obama said: “People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids, and share certain things with you.”
Obama specifically talked about college students in his panel, saying they need to recognize their tactics of casting aside those with whom they disagree may not be the best course of action.
Clearly, there are certain people who should never be given a platform to promote their ideologies. These people include those who promote violence against others and those whose views clearly oppose established facts.
Cancel culture, however, has gone far beyond this criteria.
For example, after Walmart announced it would not ban the sale of all weapons, many liberals called for a boycott of the business. When Walmart did decide to scale back on its ammunition and gun sales, many conservatives then called for the store to be boycotted.
In previous columns, I have written about the Justin Trudeau blackface scandal and the mistakes the Canadian Prime Minister made in his past. Should we hold Trudeau’s past against him forever? As Obama noted, good people do make mistakes. Because Trudeau admitted his faults and apologized, he should be forgiven.
People should listen to those they disagree with. Our differences cannot be ignored, and we must be willing to have meaningful discussions with those who do not share the same values.
We must also be a nation willing to forgive. We are all human, and all of us have made mistakes.
So as BU prepares for Shapiro’s visit, let’s not demonize each other based on our political views. Instead, we should listen to and learn from each other.