LETTER: My Experience With Political Expression


I am a supporter of the 45th President, Donald John Trump. Most Vermonters, however, do not share my views, and I am totally fine with that. Just because you and I may have differing opinions, doesn’t mean we can’t get along. It doesn’t mean we can’t have civil communications. Our ideologies may differ, but they should be able to coexist.

I am willing to give President Trump and Republicans a chance because for decades the American people have witnessed failed Democrat policies, which have damaged America’s workforce and inner cities.  These failed policies are in full force in cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia, where gang violence has skyrocketed. Democrat mayors and city leaders have made the same campaign promises for generations and yet crime and poverty have continued to rise.

I also support President Trump because he and I both share the same values and ideals for America. Our values are straightforward.  We want to see the country thrive, and to be nourished in freedom, justice, and liberty for all.  These are all core American values.

A bigot is someone who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to their own opinions.   Bigotry is not something people are born with.  It is learned at home, school and within societies.  I taught myself to not be a bigot and developed my values and principles through research and observation.   Through this process I taught myself to respect all views and to have tolerance and acceptance of views different from my own.

While the political left preaches tolerance and acceptance, during and right after the election when I tried to express my political opinions, I was neither tolerated nor accepted.  In fact, I was harassed by those who not only didn’t share my views but also tried to intimidate me into silence because they could not cope with hearing opinions different than their own.  As part of this attempt to silence me, these individuals cloaked themselves in moral superiority by questioning my values, principles, and motivations.  Some even threatened me with violence.

While I was not shy about expressing myself, I was always polite. I respect everyone and their views, no matter how much I disagreed with them.  I tolerate differences of opinion because this country was founded on freedom.  Freedom of expression is a right we all share and ensures that competing ideas are aired and debated.  I also tolerate different opinions because I don’t believe that I have all the answers or that my own opinions should not be challenged.

Sadly, not only was I targeted by individuals but I was portrayed as someone I was not by my school’s newspaper in a cover article.  Right above a picture of me, the article was misleadingly headlined “Swastika Post Raises First Amendment Concerns,” falsely suggesting that I use a racist symbol for my school profile picture.  However, as the reporter (who was supervised by a member of the school’s faculty) well knew, the symbol I use is a Hindi Swastika, a 5,000-year-old symbol of good fortune and well-being.  The headline and the article left out this important fact and, by omitting this fact, intentionally suggested instead that the symbol I use is connected to the hateful, Nazi-appropriated version of this symbol. The misportrayal was intended to isolate, marginalize, and demean me. Indeed, the misportrayal ran the risk of provoking violence against me. Perhaps that was also the intent. I was also misportrayed when it was stated that the swastika was taken down, and I put it back up. This never happened because the administration never took it down in the first place.

The movement, for which I have been targeted for supporting, has a clear message for those willing to listen.  This message cherishes the idea of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  My hope is that we can all freely express ourselves without being subjected to bigotry or threats of violence.  Our community and country face too many challenges to blindly shut down ideas just because they are new or different from our own.

Kolby LaMarche is a freshman at Burlington High School.Letters to the editor are welcome from all community members, and can be sent to: [email protected]