TCNJ Repents ’09

At about 11:45am on September 23rd, I was walking out of the Student Center only to be greeted by a booming voice shouting, “Homosexuals must repent!” I then noticed a man fashioning a “Jesus Saves From Hell” shirt and army fatigue pants. He was toting a large sign reading “WARNING: GOD HATERS, FORNICATORS, DRUNKS, MOCKERS, ADULTERERS, GREEDY, THIEVES, LIARS, HOMOSEXUALS, JUDGEMENT” in one hand and a Bible in the other. He was accompanied by a stocky man who greatly resembled Michael Moore.

Shocked, I immediately stumbled through my cell phone contact list to call every TCNJ activist I could think of and tell them what was going on. Before I knew it, a small hoard of students gathered at the scene, proudly standing in front of the Student Center with pro-gay rights signs.

As the group began to grow, we were approached by Sgt. Joseph Skrajewski. He informed us that the two men had not obtained permission to be there and that they would be moved. The sergeant also said that in order to continue our counter-demonstration, we would have to speak with Tim Asher, Director of Student Activities, to get his approval, a process that ordinarily takes about a month. This would have meant a counter-protest was not permitted, period. Beyond violating unabridged free speech, this would have been outright censorship and sets an intolerable precedent for the future. Carol Bresnahan, the openly gay Executive Vice President of TCNJ, who had joined the counter-demonstration, stepped in and requested that Skrajewski let us continue to protest. From that point forward, Sgt. Skrajewski dropped the issue and only idly watched. We were lucky that Vice President Bresnahan was present and supportive, as the empowering demonstration was almost destroyed by banal bureaucratic technicalities.

As time rolled on, the “born-again” demonstrators became increasingly outnumbered as more and more students noticed what was going on and joined the counter-protesters. The protest group grew to over 100 students, professors, and faculty.

The two men preached their hatred, claiming that homosexuals are better off killing themselves than living as themselves, women belong at home cooking and cleaning, our professors were brainwashing us by teaching “evil-ution,” and that it is morally acceptable to sell one’s daughter into slavery as condoned in the Bible. One of the men also made the claim that President Obama was going to put us all in concentration camps by the end of his term. “This is good, free country, you’re saying what you want…no martial law yet…no camps yet…” one muttered. This begs the question: what kind of delusional racist hysteria would lead someone to believe Obama will have us all in Gulags?

The preachers’ voices were drowned out by the demonstrators, who chanted, “Gay, straight, black, white, same struggle, same fight!” and “Homophobic and anti-gay! Right-wing nutjobs, go away!”

A highlight of the demonstration was when several female students held a “kiss-in” while a tour passed by. The students walked up right next to one of the homophobic Bible-thumpers, paired off, and started making out. This was followed by a male couple walking by holding hands. Both displays were met with loud applause and cheering from the sea of demonstrators.

The two men were eventually surrounded by chanting students and rainbow flags. Evangelical junior biology major Paul Soon, armed with his Bible, stood in front of the men explaining the context of their Biblical references, correcting some of their alleged misinterpretations. Matt Hoke, Perspective Editor, told the story of the Stonewall riots of 1969 and their role in the LGBT movement. One student mocked the men, preaching about his fictional bout with homosexuality. Adam Engel, senior English major, brought further levity by playing “Amazing Grace” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on his trumpet. David “Border Patrol” Michelson, junior political science major and an active member of the College Republicans who wore a “Friends don’t let friends vote Democrat” shirt, gave a short speech on the importance of gay rights; he said the issue is “something we should all agree on.”

Many of the students who no longer saw anything productive coming from engaging the Bible-thumpers led a march to the alumni grove, leaving the men with little audience.

Some believe that the demonstration last Wednesday, and by extension the tactic of protesting in general, has little impact on public opinion. However, the LGBT community at TCNJ certainly felt the effect of the demonstration. Perspective contributor Dena Lagomarsino, a junior secondary ed. and English major, said, “In flyering for the [National Equality March] in the weeks leading up to the impromptu protest, I was discouraged at times when students told me they didn’t believe in same-sex marriage—but the protest really turned that around.” When discussing the number of heterosexuals at the demonstration,

Lagomarsino said, “it became clear that there were a lot more straight allies from all walks of campus life, which was really elating.”

Besides the obvious success of uniting students and getting others interested in the issues raised at the demonstration, the protest also succeeded in affirming to the LGBT community at TCNJ that their classmates stand with them.

The born-again protesters managed to act as a galvanizing force, bringing together many students of all political persuasions in solidarity.

To those who say that it is better to ignore those who spew hateful rhetoric, I can assure you that the feeling and tangible progress achieved from acting in unity far surpasses anything that can be gained from turning the other cheek. Because of the protest, over 30 students signed up on the spot to get involved in LGBT activism.

A rainbow wave crashed over TCNJ last Wednesday and washed away with it any doubt that this campus will stand up against homophobia, sexism, and right-wing extremism.

THE UNIVERSE WE CALL HOME?

In this week’s Signal (link), Managing Editor Bobby Olivier delivers what may or may not be a rebuke to the criticism of his newspaper that can be found in The Perspective’s inaugural issue.

Frankly, our staff is genuinely confused about the message Olivier is attempting to convey. His editorial begins with the flippant suggestion that the College should no longer construct buildings that will not be utilized by its current generation of students. It then goes on to list farcical ideas for new construction projects from which students could presumably receive instant gratification.

His message would be all well and good—if it made any sense. What argument is Olivier attempting to counteract? Who has suggested that the College should not be constructing new buildings, a suggestion he appears to be satirizing? No doubt, sarcasm can be a valuable vehicle through which to deconstruct fallacious arguments; anyone who seriously contends that the College should withdraw funding for all its “future-oriented” construction projects deserves to be derided. But whatever point Olivier is trying to make becomes lost in the fray of a bizarrely incoherent diatribe.

It is not particularly noteworthy for a Signal editorial to be poorly written and puzzling—this we have sadly become accustomed to. But Olivier takes an unusual step by hurling an unveiled barb at our infantile magazine, calling on students to “hit up the frivolous observatory” that he facetiously claims the non-forward looking among us would have built, “and discover which alternate universe The Perspective’s editors call home.”

Say what?

The Perspective editorial board has poured over Olivier’s rant, trying earnestly to decode whatever criticism of our publication might lie beneath its unintelligible prose. But we have thus far been unsuccessful. The Perspective values input from its readership – critical or otherwise – and is perfectly willing to engage with The Signal if it so chooses. But Olivier’s underhanded denigration, the motivation behind which is indecipherable, leaves no room for a response on our part. Even so, if you think you can figure out what Bobby meant, email us, or better yet email The Signal—they may be interested to know that their editorial is utterly incoherent.

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ON THAT NOTE…

In their September 30 editorial, The Signal praised student protesters for confronting the born-again preachers who invaded our campus two weeks ago. They wrote:

“The point of this editorial is not to disagree with what the demonstrators were saying, but to commend the student protesters…”

The Signal was right to applaud the protesters, whose impromptu display of solidarity was both invigorating and cause for accolade. But their bizarre refusal to condemn the preachers’ hateful and deranged rhetoric was nothing less than shameful.

The entire campus community banded together in opposition to the abominable message that was on display: Republicans joined Democrats, libertarians joined socialists, and faculty joined students to stand against the rabidly offensive preachers. There is no cause easier to rally around than such unabashed bigotry and vitriol.

Yet The Signal, a publication that is supposed to be the voice of the College, could not muster the courage to denounce the words of the hate-mongers, which included “Women should stay in the home,” “Gay people should kill themselves,” and “Obama will have us all in concentration camps.” Their rhetoric was akin to that which might be spewed by Nazis or the KKK; it was the lowest of the low, and at times seemed like fodder for a comedy routine. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine how an unequivocal denunciation could have even been up for debate. But at least we now see The Signal’s true colors—and its silence amounts to nothing less than cowardice.

Rest assured that The Perspective will never hesitate to condemn what deserves condemnation, and will never fall victim to The Signal’s self-imposed and artificial standards of neutrality.

Concluding Thoughts and a Signal Critique


Many reading this inaugural issue of The Perspective may wonder: why start a publication at a time when it is clear that the newsprint business model needs refining, and sustaining a periodical is becoming exceedingly difficult? How will our organization spread our message and reach our audience with assumedly limited financial backing? What do our contributors want to write that can’t be written in The Signal—an established media outlet? Is there something wrong with The Signal? Continue reading “Concluding Thoughts and a Signal Critique”

HOPE IN THE HURT LOCKER

The Hurt Locker

Calling attention to independent movies, Roger Ebert said, “it’s a miracle any film gets made. Millions of tiny pieces have to come together.” It’s extremely difficult for independent filmmakers to finance their own projects while competing with profit-guzzling blockbusters that are backed by the mainstream film industry.

An example: According to Variety magazine, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, director Michael Bay’s explosion-laden sequel about wars between aliens and robots, was the first movie ever to receive full support from the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. The military, funded by taxpayers, didn’t hesitate to provide the use of “Marine hovercrafts, Navy subs and nearly every kind of Army helicopter and Air Force plane in service… all coordinated through special arrangement with the Department of Defense.” Continue reading “HOPE IN THE HURT LOCKER”

REPUBLICANS FOR EQUALITY?

Recently, a strange man appeared on campus with an even stranger message of fire and brimstone. He stood outside the Student Center and told us we would all go to hell for our indecent lifestyles unless we repented and found God. I was proud to take part in the protest against this crazed zealot, for reasons that bear repeating because they are so vitally important. First and foremost, I am proud to stand in solidarity against homophobic bigotry. But there is another reason I am compelled to speak out: because I want it to be known that the voice of the crazed zealot is not the representative voice of the American Right. I am a staunch Republican who voted for John McCain. I supported Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, and the War in Iraq. But I can’t support bigotry, and I am sickened when men like the crazed preacher spout it in such a way as to make it seem representative of my party.

I see the Tea Parties on the news, with protesters showing up by the tens of thousands to cite legitimate grievances against their government. I hear the pundits denounce them as racists; they say we are rioting because we cannot accept the authority of a black president. I hear this and I grow angry. When Bush was president, was I not told that dissent was the highest form of patriotism? Why am I now a racist for disagreeing with my government?

I ask myself, how do people get these perceptions that the rank-and-file of the Republican Party is racist, sexist, and anti-gay? Then I see the crazed preacher spew his hate, and I see how easily misperceptions get started. So I wish to make it known: this madman does not represent us. The average Republican is not a bigot. The average Republican is repulsed by the vitriol put forth by fundamentalist homophobes, and will stand against it when confronted. We are not racists. We are not homophobes. We are not bigots.

Michelson, known by many as “Border Patrol,” participated in the rally
Michelson, known by many as “Border Patrol,” participated in the rally