Columns / Discourse / November 10, 2016

Reconsider approach to dialogue and solidarity

You have every right to feel angry, terrified, demoralized and any other emotion you may be feeling. You are entitled to your First Amendment rights and I praise you for using your voice. What is happening is not right, and no, this is not the American image our ancestors fought and died for. I am with you. But, as Hillary Clinton recently stated in her concession speech, “Donald Trump is going to be President.” It is in our hands now, as students, members of the future generation, and citizens of our country to decide how to respond. A recent TKS article was devoted to the Anti-Trump Rally and a student column apologized for some of the words being shouted during the protest. My newsfeed on Facebook has exploded with statuses expressing disappointment, grief and fear. But more than anything over the past couple of days, I have read and witnessed an unquantifiable amount of hatred and attacks.

I opened with saying that you have every right to feel angry, terrified, demoralized and any other emotion you feel. I strongly believe that if you are experiencing an emotion, it is valid. Your emotions do not require the validation of others for the experience of it, is validation in itself. You don’t owe anyone anything. I plead for just a moment that we reconsider some of the responses to the outcome of this election, starting from the examination of our inward most selves, and then, only then, moving outward to the evaluation of others.

I want to ask you for a moment to imagine a circumstance in which you were in whatever way, morally blinded, and your neighbor was trying to persuade you of what they believed was “right.” How might you be convinced? Would you listen to someone fuming, pointing fingers of blame, delivering insults or even offering threats to you? Would you care to invest yourself in a conversation if you felt like you were being attacked and your voice muted? How might you feel and respond? Could your neighbor successfully change your position?

Now, I want you to imagine again, the same circumstance in which you were in whatever way, morally blinded, and your neighbor was trying to persuade you of what they believed was “right.” How might you be convinced? Would you listen to someone who approaches you with respect and patience? Who gives you a moment to voice your current position? Would you care to invest yourself in a conversation if you felt comfortable, even loved? How might you feel and respond? What would it take for you to consider the other side?

I’m not saying that explicitly misogynistic, racist and homophobic individuals are entitled to respect. They aren’t and unfortunately neither are you or I. But I ask for a moment that we ponder what really may have led to this stark division of America. I acknowledge the dangers and terror of Trump and Pence in Washington, but I have to ask you, is a Trump presidency really the problem, or is it a symptom of something greater?

You are not obligated to be calm or sit down face to face with someone who disrespects and devalues you for your identity. But I encourage you to utilize your education and your voice in the most productive way you can, especially to those closest to you, approaching them with respect, at the very least. I encourage you to refrain from quick accusations and putting those you disagree with in a box. Ask questions of your peers to provoke thought. Use your mind to get to their heart. Your approach has power. No, it’s not fair to have to humble yourself. It’s not fair that the weight of this has fallen upon us. But, I plead that you may truly listen to those around you and reconsider what genuine “solidarity” might look like and what “dialogue” at Knox really represents.

Trump can threaten to build a wall, send our immigrant friends and family away, withhold our reproductive rights and continue to devalue minorities through words and action.  But no one can take away our hate or love but ourselves. So, which will you choose?

How might you be convinced?

Alexis Bell

Tags:  dialogue Donald Trump election Knox College protest solidarity

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