Blake Flournoy, Staff Contributor
Gophers, I’m troubled.
I sit here at my desk tonight with a simple mission: Respond to the dreadful opinion article that appeared in the Q last semester. Many of you have read it and debated it to hell and back at this point—the title is “In the wake of the Paris attacks, Islam must be held accountable,” for those of you who missed it before the break. But, I sit here and ruminate on the question I can’t quite answer: What should I be responding to?
There are plenty of options, mind you. I could loose my tongue at Yudelson’s hateful article. I could call him out on his rage, his acceptance of the Islamophobic rhetoric that’s plagued both our country and most of Europe for years, and tear his argument apart systematically with a couple of clever references and historical explanations of the Crusades tossed in for good measure. It would be a quick, easy article, and I could send it in, get it out, and bask in rave reviews and public acclaim for a month. To be perfectly honest, it would be really nice. But, it would mean doing a disservice to every student on this campus, and I can’t bring myself to that. Because you know what, Goucher? We have to stop doing this. The cyclical rut of dissent and attack that our campus is stuck in needs to end.
As far as I can see it, as a student body, we are a consumptive mess—a blighted mockery of what we should be. We love to pat ourselves on the back for being inclusive and accepting of diversity in all forms (though many of us know just how false that statement is), but it seems like only a handful of us know how to process an opposing stance. Rather than discuss our issues, we prefer to decry ideas and engage in a type of discourse so sad that I can’t help but laugh at the sight of it! Rather than accept and acknowledge our opposites, we alienate and antagonize, casting the “others” as the villains of a story that’s never quite concerned with the truth. We can achieve so much when we band together towards a cause, but it seems to me like we spend most of our time either tearing each other apart over nothing but foolish pride, or building up defenses just in case our points deviate from the campus norm. We squander our potential as a group, and that’s a damn shame.
Yudelson’s article opened my eyes to it—both in the moment where our vilified author reminds us that he’s liberal (before launching into another attack on Islam), and in the weeks after that Q issue’s release, where I saw plenty of discussion over the problems of the article (not to mention plenty of declarations of the author’s villainy) but heard not a single word about the state of distress someone would have to be in to pen and publish something like this, particularly on as small and judgmental a campus as ours. Even I’m guilty of this—it was only recently that I saw the article as anything but hateful drivel that should never have been published. As I sit here and write, I realize that the article has purpose in the public eye: Even if the justifications were weak (“To get people talking” is an irresponsible reason to do anything in most cases, and I stand by this), there are lessons to be learned by reading it, and from the fallout of the matter. What’s the lesson, then? Where do we go from here?
The answer is simple: We step back, and we dedicate ourselves to learning more. We broaden our fields of view—not because we have to honor and embrace every stance and ideal, but because to understand, we must acknowledge the thoughts of others, even when they stand in stark opposition to our own. The Perspectives for Progress event on February 4 was a great starting example of this. After November’s divisive disaster, students came together to learn without ripping apart at the seams from the idea that neither side of the oft-waged Israel/Palestine debate was entirely correct. We need more of that. So you know what, Cameron Yudelson? I’m not going to tear into you.
Not because I agree with you or your points, because I don’t. We’re diametrically opposed here. I won’t fight you, because I understand where you were coming from. You were upset and scared and angry, and you directed that at the target you saw most deserving of it. I can only hope that time has healed your wounds, and that you’ve stepped back and looked at some different perspectives, some different ideas than the ones you supported a few months back. I hope that you’ve learned something from the fallout of your article, though I hope that no one follows the tune of your old words as a result of similar experiences. I don’t think that your article was a good idea at all, but I won’t vilify you. Instead, I’ll read up on the sources that back your points, and I ask you to talk to me about this sometime. I invite you to work on a follow-up article with me afterwards as well. Perhaps we can learn from one another and set a good example for the rest of the campus.
We certainly need it.