The Daily Illini

Sidewalk chalk politics accomplish nothing

By Skylar Bouchard, Columnist

If you happened to walk through the Main Quad last weekend, you may have noticed the sidewalk was littered with writing about the subject of abortion from both pro-life and pro-choice students. Not only was the information available from this demonstration limited, but with the writing being distorted and crossed out, the sidewalk chalk seemed to be the least childish aspect of the whole situation. These kinds of sidewalk chalk protests, especially on subjects as controversial as abortion, fail to spark debate or change minds; rather, they further polarize supporters on either side by not forcing honest conversation.

In the midst of all the scribbled writing, one statement stood out to me in particular. There, on the sidewalk of the Main Quad, was the phrase “Pro-life people don’t care if women die.” This seems more like something a 12-year-old would say after just discovering their political opinions, completely lacking the understanding and complexity expected of a college campus. This kind of behavior doesn’t reflect someone open to conversation or even interested in winning the hearts and minds of individuals. It is unlikely that anyone not completely on the side of pro-choice saw that statement and thought it sounded convincing.

The statement doesn’t even seem like it was written for the purpose of changing minds. It feels as if it was written in order to get a pat on the back from people who agree politically, sacrificing civility in the process. Presenting the other side as total monsters is not only disrespectful, but also counterintuitive to presenting the positives.

Would the author have written that statement if they were forced to look at the other side while doing so, as if they had to acknowledge a person rather than a political movement? That’s the flaw in this method of distributing information; no one from either side is forced to deliberate with one another.

This type of behavior reflects a larger issue in American politics: People are so clouded by their own perceptions that no one can actually see each other. The left supports having a choice and the right supports the notion of saving a life. But in reality, nothing about this argument is that simple. There remains a lot of emotional weight and personal experiences that drive both sides of the argument. We should acknowledge that both sides are equally as complex in their arguments.

We can see the nuance in our own opinion, yet we can’t see the nuance in those around us.  If we could all just see each other as people rather than caricatures of our politics, maybe then something could actually get done.

Skylar is a freshman in ACES.

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