An in­clu­sive com­mu­nity starts here

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Much has been made about the tone of po­lit­i­cal dis­course in this coun­try, no­tably the sharp down­ward spi­ral it took dur­ing a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign that seemed like it would never end. While the re­sults of that race are in, the is­sues we con­tinue to face re­main as di­vi­sive as ever — not that we ex­pected it all to re­verse course af­ter Nov. 8.

The elec­tion is the easy tar­get for fin­ger-wag­ging, isn’t it? But, at most, the elec­tion seemed to give ev­ery­one — on both sides of the po­lit­i­cal aisle — a rea­son to cast aside ci­vil­ity for right­eous out­rage. The boil­ing over was a long time com­ing. The elec­tion it­self solved none of our prob­lems.

We — as a com­mu­nity, as a coun­try, as a so­ci­ety — can take some cues from a let­ter pub­lished in the Dec. 1 is­sue of The Elm, Wash­ing­ton Col­lege’s stu­dent news­pa­per, and signed by fac­ulty and staff mem­bers, in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Sheila Bair. In it, the fac­ulty and staff state their un­der­stand­ing and re­spect for the di­verse stu­dent body and its mem­bers’ vary­ing po­lit­i­cal views.

“The ex­pres­sion of these views is a fun­da­men­tal el­e­ment of the free ex­change of ideas and in­tel­lec­tual in­quiry that makes WC such a vi­brant in­sti­tu­tion. We are com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing a wel­com­ing, in­clu­sive, and re­spect­ful en­vi­ron­ment,” the let­ter states.

The fac­ulty and staff go on to state that they will not tol­er­ate hate speech, vi­o­lence or bul­ly­ing, that they will “sup­port, cul­ti­vate, and help pre­serve the many di­verse com­mu­ni­ties within Wash­ing­ton Col­lege.”

The let­ter closes with: “Our. Doors. Are. Al­ways. Open.”

We all can stand to tone down the right­eous­ness that is so per­va­sive in the dis­cus­sion of pol­i­tics, world events and even the sea­son fi­nale of “West­world.” Must ev­ery­thing be a “hot-but­ton is­sue” set­ting off a “firestorm of con­tro­versy?”

The fault lies with more than just the elec­tion. It ex­tends be­yond the 24-hour news cy­cle and the ques­tion­able talk­ing heads on tele­vi­sion. It is not Face­book’s fault or Twit­ter’s fault. The hard truth is that it is us. We are both the con­sumers and the pur­vey­ors of so much noise.

What does it say about the state of po­lit­i­cal dis­course that af­ter read­ing an aw­ful fake news story on­line about Hil­lary Clin­ton sup­pos­edly run­ning a child sex-traf­fick­ing ring out of a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., pizza place, a North Carolina man showed up there with an AR-15 as­sault ri­fle to “res­cue the chil­dren,” as The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ports. Then, The Post notes, “some claimed the gun in­ci­dent was ei­ther staged or even a hoax al­to­gether.”

The fight to end dis­crim­i­na­tion was nei­ther won nor lost Nov. 8. The elec­tion did not solve the is­sues of our chang­ing econ­omy. We con­tinue to face threats of vi­o­lence at home and abroad. Our crum­bling in­fra­struc­ture still needs to be ad­dressed.

And all the shout­ing gets us nowhere. It serves only to con­tinue alien­at­ing us from our own neigh­bors.

We sup­port the free ex­change of ideas. We want to hear all sides be­cause no one per­son has all the an­swers. We need to work to­gether to up­hold this na­tion’s ideals of an in­clu­sive so­ci­ety for ev­ery­one. And, as with so much, it all starts right here at home.

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