I stepped into a hornet’s nest of passion this weekend after re-posting a news article focused on a statement made by MSNBC commentator Joy Reid.
In it, she took Bernie Sanders to task for saying the Republican establishment will not stop him from getting the Democratic nomination for president, nor will the Democratic establishment.
By equating the powerbrokers of both parties, Reid claimed Sanders was essentially staging a hostile takeover of the Democratic Party rather than bringing people of that party, and others, together to defeat Donald Trump.
She framed it all by pointing out that in making the above proclamation Sanders, a registered INDEPENDENT and technically NOT a Democrat, had boldly and unapologetically kicked 65 million Hillary Clinton voters, the majority of who WERE registered Democrats, to the curb.
And that he needed those voters to win.
I was in such agreement with those thoughts and so annoyed by Sanders’ cavalier messianic attitude, I instantly put it on Facebook with a single accompanying phrase: THIS.
Very quickly, and perhaps predictably given how many young people and former students are my Facebook friends, here’s what the reaction looked like:
Now I had planned this week to write about how actress-writer Amanda Peet had literally stolen my identity with the title of her just announced Netflix TV series THE CHAIR, starring the sublime Sandra Oh as the head of a college English department.
I mean, all I could think of was:
HOW DARE SHE??????
But when you weigh my outrage against, well, my outrage, it’s clearly the subject of Bernie that wins — at least for right now.
More importantly, I’m thrilled that it did.
That repost prompted close to 100 back and forth passionate, angry, frustrated funny and heartfelt comments on politics, social issues and the state of our mutual lives.
I don’t know that it singlehandedly changed anyone’s mind, for the moment, but I am positive it allowed many of us to better understand the place from which each of us were coming from and why we felt the way that we did.
I’m also inclined to think that the next time this subject comes up we might all be that much more informed about how people really feel on the issues and allow us to engage that much more effectively.
It might even enable us to resolve a few things and modify our approach, or opinions.
This is how change happens and this is how you open hearts and minds. Not by rolling over but by engaging, arguing, listening and then engaging again. And again. And then some more.
A big part of my job as a college professor is to provoke, navigate and guide. There is nothing wrong with criticism if it’s followed by discussion. It’s essential in the classroom and in life if we’re to ever move forward anymore.
But too often these days we just can’t seem to do it well or avoid it all together.
Talking out loud about a controversial issue, statement or opinion devolves into I hate this, or him or her. Or rage about the blah, blah, blah of the blah, blah, bah. Even the mere sound or sight of the blah, blah, blah, in print, or worse, in person, is sickening.
This enables the I won’t comment at all for fear of being attacked or the strategy to seethe quietly (or not so quietly) and then strike in such a way that I can’t be harmed and/or you won’t know who it is.
Or the alternate strategy of I will do nothing and just go on with my life, which isn’t horrible enough to move me away from my everyday routine in order to engage with this issue, or you.
This doesn’t work for any of us on either side in the long run.
My college community is at the moment in the midst of discussions about race and racism as we become a more diverse and inclusive campus.
It is healthy to address those issues and more as long as it’s not done in an absolutist manner from either side.
This is difficult to achieve, as many in the fight will attest to, but clearly is possible. We stumble, we upset each other but we persevere and eventually come to an understanding of each other’s points of view and then figure out how to best soldier on with the best outcomes for as many of us as possible.
It’s easy to see colleges, or social media platforms or real live engagement as a petri dish of microaggressions, oversensitivities, insensitivities, hostilities or simply biased and/or callous disregard, and worse.
But that’s not the way I look at it.
We MUST get in the ring and spar, perhaps even fight, in order to get anywhere, especially these days. We are required to LISTEN and then try to understand, regardless of whether we do a 180 and change our points of view.
To turn away and NOT do it, to hide from all this conflict, is a sure fire strategy for our mass mutual demise.