My college campus is known as a "free speech zone" meaning anyone, and everyone can come to share their beliefs and opinions with the students. This is undoubtedly a great thing. Everyone has a chance for their message to be heard. Often times I see humanitarian efforts and charities set up with tables, people perform music, fraternities and sororities have events, puppies come during exam season, and every so often the heath department gives out free condoms and sex-ed information. This campus is a place for voices to be heard and for change to be made.
There are, however, some negative repercussions that come from having a free speech zone. A few times, a man who shall remain nameless has preyed on students, interviewing and filming them, asking (rather: tricking) them to sign petitions for things he will ultimately reveal - in a video posted online - to be related to terrorism.
Another man, known simply as "the preacher" or the "you deserve hell guy" will stand in the middle of crowds and berate passerbys. He holds a sign that says "You Deserve Hell." Many of you may have seen this on my twitter account a few months back. On my way to class one day, he singled me out and insisted that I was likely "a fornicator" and that I too deserved an eternity in the fiery depths. I just nodded, knowing I wasn't giving him the reaction he was looking for.
I've had friends say that he's just trying to provoke someone to hit him, so he can sue the school for failing to "protect" him and his hate speech, and hate speech it is. He has been known to pick on gay, muslim, and other marginalized students and groups on campus.
That's why I was overjoyed to see the photo above on Facebook today. Someone finally reacted to him in a way that completely overthrows his hateful argument. With just 3 words, this student quieted his rage, and proved to other students that a bible-wielding nutcase has nothing on what true compassion can do. So many people are moved by her positivity, and though it doesn't undo the hurtful things "the preacher" has shouted at nearly everyone, this simple action can remind people that they are indeed loved. Especially now that exams are looming. We all deserve hugs.
Of this, Sabrena said:
I am all for people exercising their rights, but I don't appreciate people coming on our campus and putting down students for their religious beliefs and yelling absurd things at them. I do understand the meaning of this man's sign and I am not dissing his religious beliefs. As a student of George Mason University I believe in promoting peace on campus and tolerance of others beliefs, as well as harvesting an environment which people can freely express themselves. During the stress of finals no one wants the negativity of him yelling at us, so to negate that negativity I told everyone they deserved hugs and to believe in what makes them a better person and makes the world a better place. When you put positivity and peace in the world you make the world a better place. Be the change in the world that you wish to!see and you will see change. Thank you everyone who stopped and made this negative situation a positive one and thank you for all the hugs. #YouDeserveHugs #PromotePeace
This photo has been shared over 150 times in the past 9 hours, and has even made it into a Buzzfeed article. The hashtags #YouDeserveHugs and #PromotePeace are buzzwords on our campus now. I am so proud of my fellow students for coosing to stand up to this negative person in such a positive way.
*Photo and quote courtesy of Sabrena Fary, Facebook.