Bridges Not Walls

By Jonathan Van Dongen

 

“[People] build too many walls and not enough bridges.” – Georges Pire (ref. JF Newton)

 

Electoral politics pit our belief systems against one another’s, and the 2016 General Election typified that to the extreme. But what people may be forgetting, is that the election is over and there is work to do.

I recently had the good fortune to attend IFYC–a leadership conference about Interfaith cooperation–supported by the Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict. It was phenomenal. We had easily 200 people of different faiths and worldviews break into small groups and discuss conflict resolution and how to bridge the divide between disparate ideologies. But when the 2016 Election inevitably came up, the room unified in their resounding disbelief and discontent. Why were these people, who hours beforehand were practicing how to mediate a conversation between two dissimilar groups, so immediately closed off to open discussion?

I still don’t have an answer, though I suspect it had something to do with feelings of disenfranchisement and lack of genuine discussion. Everyone had opinions and often spoke to be heard, rather than to listen. Is this all too dissimilar from our experiences at home, in the Forest, or even on social media?

Here’s the bottom line. There are more people on this planet than ever before with different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. We claim to value diversity, but we reject the diversity that we dislike. We resort to condescension and incessant arguments. I’ve heard people saying that they will ignore friends and disown families–which is absolutely within their right. But wouldn’t it be better to discuss your differences and try to understand each other? And not to enclose ourselves within our ideological bubbles?

Continue to be informed and engaged with your activism. But right now, we are acting as a people divided. There is enough negativity and hatred in the world without us adding to it. So maybe we can start discussing our differences and work to understand each other. There’s some irony here: build BRIDGES, not WALLS.

Jonathan is a senior Psychology major with a Political Science minor.

 

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