Sitting on the fence

Jade Everage

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I chose to attend Jordan Peterson’s talk last night, along with a fellow Black Student Union officer and a BSU member, in order to actively challenge myself and Dr. Peterson through civil discourse.

Listening to the talk, I took several notes and I prepared my question for Dr. Peterson. I patiently waited in line to ask my question for about forty-five minutes until it was announced that the talk was over. Determined to participate in discourse with Dr. Peterson, I persisted to go and speak with him face-to-face. Waiting behind many of his supporters for around thirty minutes, time was winding down and he was given about ten more minutes. Dr. Peterson decided to quickly move through pictures in order to answer more questions later. In consideration of those who traveled far to take pictures with Dr. Peterson, I chose to allow them to go in front of me, and I also offered to help them take pictures.

Once I noticed that the picture-taking was going to continue endlessly, I decided to take a stand insisting that I needed to ask him an important question and engage in an intellectual conversation about his statement on safe spaces. Once I began to read through my notes he interrupted me and asked, “Wait. How long is this gonna take,” because he needed to get through the pictures. I followed by arguing that our discourse was more important than taking pictures at this moment. “See I don’t agree with you,” stated Dr. Peterson.

As a Linfield student, I have never experienced such behavior. I waited for nearly two hours to speak with Dr. Peterson because I wanted to give him the opportunity to practice the teachings of his speech, which was engaging in discourse to seek the truth by arming one’s self with words and creating tactful arguments in an objective manner.

I interpreted his behavior as valuing pictures and image over the ideology that was reinforced by his supporters, experiencing no opposition whatsoever. There was also a comment insisting that “unlimited discourse” was not what the talk was for. Although I do agree that Dr. Peterson does not have time to answer a plethora of questions and I also agree that time is not something I can control, I still found that comment to be highly contradictory to the words that the very same student said at our previous forum about reaching intellectual understanding through discourse.

I do not intend to belittle the time and effort that Young Americans for Liberty put into hosting this event; however, I do believe that what intellectual discourse between opposing views was intended to occur did not, and that is an issue.

Today, a student spoke to me about the stigmas of “sitting on the fence.” Not wanting to choose a side can be seen as cowardly and passive; however, I would argue that sitting on the fence allows for you to have a wider peripheral of both sides, and it also allows for you to see the good and bad of both.

I “sit on the fence” within the current context of free speech and the responsibilities tied to it. As a student leader on campus, I am obligated to engage in constant communication with those who do and those who do not agree with me. “Picking a side” will render me blind from the realities that the other side may be experiencing, which results in a stalemate discussion.

I encourage you all to “sit on the fence” for a little while. You will get a much better view of the world and a sharper focus on the characters of the people you engage with.   


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3 Responses to “Sitting on the fence”

  1. Brent Fewster on April 29th, 2017 8:54 am

    I don’t get it. You waited for 2 hours to ‘give him the opportunity to practice the teachings of his speech’? It sounds more like you wanted him to address your point/question. That’s not the same thing.


  2. benson bear on April 29th, 2017 12:02 pm

    I guess one would have to be there to make a judgement on whether or not your attempt to engage with Peterson was unfairly and/or unreasonably rejected.

    However, many of your observations ring true to me and I thank you for providing a different view on Peterson and his followers that we do not often (if ever) see reported.

    And I think as a young person you are to be congratulated for apparently attempting to think for yourself.

    The metaphor of a fence is not perfect however since there are rarely just two sides to anything.


  3. Not-Bob on May 19th, 2017 9:50 am

    Hello Jade,

    I’m sorry you were not granted the time to speak to Peterson that you wished to do. Did you make any attempt to contact him after the meeting? Many people who had missed the chance in previous rallies had successful set up skype or podcast debates with Peterson by keeping in constant contact and working around his scedules. Perhaps if you do the same you can finally get the answer to the question you wish to ask?


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Sitting on the fence