I was in Berkeley to teach my regular Wednesday night Intro class. We had a nice class, then I had to figure out how to get home. A riot had erupted at a protest on the campus. The protest began because a controversial speaker had come to campus. The riot happened because some people are stupid.

The big mess blocked most of my usual routes. I had plenty of time to think about demonstrations as I made a wide detour around the violence.

I get it: Milo Yiannopoulos is a sleazy purveyor of hate speech. The student Republicans had to know he was an incendiary choice of a speaker. Other students protested his presence. That much is fine by me: hear what he has to say, then if his ideas are foul and unworthy of a great university, say so. As the kindergarten teachers say, use your words.

Whoever chose to “protest” with violence did no favors to free speech.

I hate to see us going down this path. Milo Yiannopoulos got exactly what he wanted from UC Berkeley last night: great visuals of a riot to splash across TV screens from Bangor to Santa Barbara.

What has this to do with Torah? I pondered that as I took the long way home at 9pm. My students and I had spent the evening learning Torah. I hope that in doing so, we were equipping ourselves to make better decisions, to meet challenges with wisdom and courage.

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