Last week all eyes on were on Charlottesville, Va. as white supremacists clashed with citizens that disagreed with their message: to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee. The public figure’s representation and meaning varies by the beholder; some see him as a defender of slavery, and others as the military leader that fought for the right of states to leave the union. Skirmishes and violence erupted resulting in one death and 15 injuries. The vile ideology of these white supremacists backfired however, as the incidents in Charlottesville have encouraged millions of Americans to come together and condemn the hateful ideas that were promoted by rally organizers.
At Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) we work day and night to present a positive message of liberty for all Americans. We will not allow these groups of extremists to tarnish the message of limited government. All of these fringe groups are a threat to the ideals our nation was founded on: personal liberty and freedom for all. YAL members nationwide spread the Declaration’s message that “…we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal…” The events in Charlottesville prove that some individuals missed the “self evident” part.
YAL is the largest pro-liberty student organization in the country, with 900 campus chapters and thousands of active members across all 50 states. We condemn hateful ideas that deem one group of people superior to another. We condemn any idea that promotes or justifies the use of violence or force. In our statement of principles, we hold to the belief “that society is a responsibility of the people, not the government,” that mutual respect is “fundamental to a peaceful society,” and “that voluntary action is the only ethical behavior.”
Though the incidents in Charlottesville are shameful and tragic, we must not let them divide us or tarnish our ability to work as one. We cannot allow for the actions of a few, sick individuals, to represent the majority of rational Americans.
As millennials, we have the ability to dictate which direction our country takes. Together, through voluntary action, mutual respect, and the promotion of peace and personal responsibility, we can begin to crowd out these hateful ideals and work towards a peaceful and more prosperous society.
Now is the time to be vocal. Now is the time to encourage open discussion and honest debate. Therefore, we must learn how to preserve our freedoms of speech, expression, and opinion without resorting to hatred or violence.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.” We must not let the actions in Charlottesville divide us further, but instead use them to unite us in the common goal of fighting for a better, freer tomorrow.
Young Americans for Liberty will continue to stand in defense of freedom and opportunity for all through our efforts in advancing the cause of liberty on campuses across the United States.
Cliff Maloney Jr. is the President of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), a non-profit, youth organization based in Arlington, VA that boasts over 900 college chapters across the United States. YAL’s mission is to identify, educate, train, and mobilize youth activists committed to winning on principle. Learn more about YAL at http://www.yaliberty.org.