It is incredibly easily, and sometimes fulfilling, to vilify those who do not share your beliefs. In addition, it is alarmingly easier to wish harm upon them. If you are ever doubtful of the morality of your convictions, a quick scan of Facebook, Twitter, etc. could validate your belief system. A few years ago, I found myself participating in a popular trend where it was commonplace to wish the worst for people who exercised their freedom of speech, as controversial as their actions were, such as the example of a small-business refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple (see link below). It is common to feel attacked, victimized, and triggered by the action, or inaction, of a select group of people. I remember reading the comments of the news article that shared the story. User after user from all over the country shared their opinions hoping that the bakery was shut-down and that the owner of the bakery would never bake again. I was enthralled by the unity, the high number of “likes” on comments I agreed with, and the intolerance of the business owner's’ decision and of his proponents. I felt justified in my ill-wishes for the business owner. What's more, I was empowered by this imagined, online community and felt secure in my views and values.
Last year, I transferred to Santa Clara University and was, and still am, inspired by the students, faculty, and staff who are guided by and passionate about SCU’s mission and values such as educating the whole person and serving the communities that we are a part of. As a result, I desired to grow and evolve to fit those values. I envisioned myself as a just, fair-minded, and open person. However, I was appalled at how inhuman and far removed I was from the person I wanted to be. My values were informed by bias and fuelled by hatred and othering. I discriminated against those who did not share my beliefs. I judged them for what they believed in without considering the people beyond the beliefs. I never truly listened to them and I certainly never engaged them. I only addressed the people who mattered: my biased community.
The recent presidential election challenges our communities to address the biases affecting our lives. How do we respond when faced with the onslaught on our values and ferocity from every spectrum of discourse? For this reason, I sought out the Hackworth Fellowship on Freedom of Speech and Civil Discourse because this dilemma is not solely my own. To align with SCU’s mission, I hope to encourage my community members to engage in discourses with those possessing opposing viewpoints as one human to another- not as enemies. Through this, I hope that we can tap into the wealth of knowledge between our differences, where we can cultivate the generosity to listen and the ability to freely speak with respect.
Baker and Gay Couple update - 9/16/17