It Still Matters

In college, it is easy to become absorbed and enraptured in a culture of advocacy and liberation from ignorance. We find a bubble filled with people of diverse backgrounds reading the same philosophers and experiencing the same intellectual realities, each striving toward our own rendition of the common goal – cue Ms. Congeniality’s ‘world peace.’ However, with one glance at the newspapers, what seems so obvious becomes so countercultural.

‘Seven US mosques attacked in last few days.’ In the wake of the 11th anniversary of 9/11 and the UN International Day of Peace, America is experiencing a climbing number of violence targeting our Muslim communities, and in just the past two years, ’73 anti-Islam bills in 31 states’ were introduced. When I ask some members of my community why it seems acceptable to enact policies targeting Muslims, they respond generically: “Because they’re the ones committing the crimes.”

I have a serious problem with that statement, particularly the word “they’re.” Who are “they?” How many constitute the “they” group? What is the dividing line between ‘us’ and ‘them’? And which “crimes” are they talking about? I’m talking about the “crimes” against “them,” so does that make “them” us?

Wait – that conversation needs to stop for two reasons. First of all, we are all humans; second, we all want to feel safe. The first reason is commonly discussed amongst our world peace bubble in college. The second, however, is something I hear in the communities I have visited and lived in around the world: national security, financial security, transportation security. Lock your door, hide your purse, and protect your identity.

What is this fear of the unknown? Fear of our future? Fear of death? “They” are unpredictable. “They” are uncontrollable. “They” are inescapably influencing our lives. But, why must we be afraid? If we are affirming the humanity in each other and preserving our freedom and human rights, then why can we not embrace each other?

We do not listen to each other. How many Republicans watched the Democratic National Convention? And vice versa? No, I do not mean watching the highlights on one’s preferred news media network or listening to popular analysts impose their opinions on the performances. Why do we only act together when we are forced to be together? Why do we avoid politics and religion at the dinner table? It’s because we do not know how to talk together. We understand very well how to voice our positions, but we engage in debate rather than dialogue.

My brother, on his first day of high school, said during the Political Party A National Convention, “Wait, isn’t that what Political Party B is saying, too?” He actually listened and engaged in the conversation before defending his voice. When we listen better, we can talk better, and we can serve our expanding community better together.

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