Art by Ally Armstrong
Eleven people were killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh when Robert Bowers opened fire, making anti-Semitic statements during the shooting. The shooting is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in United States history.
The synagogue shooting is only one of the many shootings that have inundated news feeds. The shooting came a day after the arrest of Cesar Sayac, the Florida man who sent pipe bombs to critics of President Donald Trump. It is clear that there is an insidious infection of hate and violence permeating our nation, and it is easy to get caught up in passionate rhetoric and fall into the trap of partisan divides that continue to plague our nation.
However, during this time of tragic loss, it is vital that society comes together, to look beyond partisan divides and differences, to confront these critical issues and what is at stake for humanity.
Individuals are now confronted with an important question: How can and should society overcome partisanship in order to come together as humans?
When President Trump visited Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Oct. 27, in response to the attack, vociferous debate followed, and while protestors amassed to dispute his visit, they were, as a New York Times article reported, united in their grief. While one could interpret the protests about Trump’s visit as indicative of partisan divides in the nation, they also transcend partisan divides and show that politics cannot unite individuals at all. Rather, what can unite us is our shared humanness and earnest desire to advocate for change.
Part of ameliorating this problem will mean having civil discourse about contentious issues, a discourse that can start by sharing in one another’s grief. Civil discourse is defined by the US Supreme Court as “robust, honest, frank and constructive dialogue and deliberation that seeks to advance the public interest.”
Civil discourse requires the following from each party: a serious exchange of views, focus on the issues rather than on the individual(s) espousing them, a defense of interpretations using verified information, and thoughtful listening to what others say, according to an article by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Civil discourse also includes seeking the sources of disagreements and points of common purpose, embodying open-mindedness and a willingness to change their perceptions, assuming a need to compromise and a willingness to do so, respectful treatment of the ideas of others and avoiding violence (physical, emotional, and verbal), according to the same article by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
On Tuesday, Oct. 30, the Pepperdine community came together in a prayer service hosted by the Office of the Chaplain and the Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies “to remember and pray for those who lost loved ones and the communities most affected,” Connie Horton, vice president of student affairs, wrote in an email. The prayer service would be a place to remember the victims as people, rather than to politicize their deaths.
The objective should be to humanize one another as individuals in crisis. The violence begets violence. This is a time to listen and understand our peers, no matter their political affiliation, race or religion. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.” This is our chance as a nation to display such bravery, to love one another, even if we do not agree.
People can have starkly opposing ideologies but ultimately most of us want the same things for our country: economic prosperity, civil rights and liberties, a solid education for our children and security. Individuals have very different ideas about how to achieve these things and that is what drives us apart. It is important to remember that the survival of evil in this world depends upon our reaction to it. “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind,” Gandhi said.
It is also critical to remember that the actions of a few individuals do not reflect the sentiments of the whole. Radicals who commit violence are not representative of these groups: Democrats, Republicans, Jews, Christians, Muslims and Hindus. It is important to remember is that as a whole human beings are good. They seek positive change; they just have very different ideas about how to achieve it.
The best way to understand one another is by engaging in conversation in a respectful and constructive way. Folks can do this by seeking out opportunities to understand opposing opinions, whether by partnering with a different person for a group project, attending a speech by someone of a different religious or political affiliation, or simply asking your friends in a casual way why they believe what they do. The really proactive may even join Student Government Association, the Graphic, or other organizations that harbor diversity of thought on campus.
If we listen to one another, especially in light of the national tragedy in Pittsburgh, we can find comfort instead of controversy.
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