UCLA’s two largest political organizations came together to challenge opposing ideas at a debate Thursday.
Bruin Political Union hosted the UCLA CrossFire debate at Ackerman Student Union, which featured members from the Bruin Democrats and the Bruin Republicans. Participants debated topics including the United States’ foreign policy and anti-discrimination laws.
BPU, a nonpartisan group which aims to increase the level of political discourse on campus through debate, facilitated the discussions. Debaters were given two minutes to answer each question and one minute for each rebuttal.
Participants in the debate talked about the national controversy over removing confederate landmarks and statues.
William Fitzgerald, a member of the Bruin Republicans and a first-year economics student, said he thinks many people support the monuments because they think the statues honor their ancestors that lost in the Civil War and represent states’ rights.
“To blatantly cast anyone who flies a confederate flag or supports upholding these statutes as racist or someone who believes in the original confederate values is the same logic that is applied when (Islamophobic people) say that all Muslims are terrorists,” said Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald said he thinks local governments should consider removing historical statues on a case-by-case basis because they can be expensive to remove.
“In Sarasota County, Florida, they spent $12,700 to remove a statue that they ended up breaking in the process.” he said. “In 2006, Sarasota was voted the number one place for the worst treatment of homeless people. … Is that really (an) efficient allocation of resources when we have a massive (homelessness) problem?”
Fitzgerald added he thinks the monuments are reminders to make sure the Civil War and slavery do not happen again.
On the other hand, Nina Long, a member of the Bruin Democrats and a first-year political science student, said she thinks the monuments were meaningless and symbols of hate.
“The very people who put up these statutes intended for them to intimidate and terrorize black people,” said Long.
Long said she thinks taking down these monuments is a moral issue because she believes the monuments dehumanize African-Americans.
Debaters also discussed U.S. foreign policy and escalating tensions between North Korea and the United States.
Terrence White, a fourth-year political science student and member of the Bruin Republicans, said he thinks the United States should take action when there is an impending nuclear strike. He added he thinks President Donald Trump’s administration’s efforts with other countries in the United Nations to impose economics sanctions on North Korea is reducing the likelihood of an attack.
Bruin Democrat debater and third-year history student Wesley Adams said he thinks economic sanctions do not work against North Korea because of the government’s selfish nature.
“(Trump’s) strategy of being belligerent with economic sanctions has been shown to not work. If anything, they have doubled down,” said Adams. “Economic sanctions primarily hurt the poorest people of the population – sanctions only work if the government of that country is willing to respond to the needs (of) its poorest people.”
Adams said he thinks the United States should negotiate with North Korea upfront by addressing the fact that they are now a nuclear state and establishing a back channel for negotiations between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Participants also debated over whether the First Amendment gives businesses the right to refuse service based on sexual orientation.
Bruin Democrat and second-year political science student Henry Lutz said he thinks businesses do not have the right to refuse service to anyone based on sexual orientation because a business is a secular entity, not a religious organization.
“The business itself is providing a public good,” said Lutz. “The 14th Amendment was put in place to protect all citizens, which includes same-sex couples.”
Bruin Republican and graduate student Rahul Daryanani responded by saying that businesses are private entities that fall under an individual’s right to freedom of religion.
Participants in the event said they think the debate allowed for an open dialogue on politically polarizing issues.
Mariela Muro, a third-year political science student, said she thinks the event was a great way to facilitate communication between individuals with opposing view points.
“I think events like these are really productive and no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, being able to express your thoughts and feelings on things is really productive,” she said. “Sometimes I think we have a lot more in common than we think we do and that’s a good thing.”