Common Ground

Kristen Field

Last Sunday, a rally on the UC-Berkley campus in the United States, purportedly aimed at combatting hate, led to Trump supporters being violently beaten by these protestors who had gathered to voice their concerns - protestors who, I’m sure, would have been absolutely devastated and disgusted - rightly so - by the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, VA only weeks before. The footage of both incidents is incredibly painful to watch.

In complete awe over how such hypocrisy could be enacted, I wasn’t prepared for Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski’s reactions to this event. “Just for you mentally stunted snowflakes, on the far left, let me explain something to you,” Joe began, before Mika cut in with an airy, sardonic: “Everyone loves you!”

And the fact that Joe then went on to explain the value of listening to and reading the works of people who hold views diametrically opposed to your own? The way that another commentator on the show had already explained, incredibly rationally, how protesting a proposed speech by someone you passionately disagree with and shutting that speech down is the second-best thing you can do to support them, other than actually adopting their views - that the most powerful way for you to combat those views is to actually let the person speak: to avoid the speech, show that you aren’t interested in listening to them, but more importantly, actually allow others to witness how illogical and potentially harmful this person’s views can be? None of that matters a lick when the argument is boiled down to name-calling - to reducing human beings to caricatures incapable of ever shifting their mindset or growing as thinkers and political activists.

People get hurt, and people get scared, and calling them snowflakes isn’t going to change that. It’s only going to make them stuff more cotton in their ears and yell even louder to block out anything constructive you might want to share with them.

Now, a confession: I watch Fox News. Not solely, and not because I agree with more than five-percent of what I hear on their shows, but because there’s a comfort (or perhaps a masochistic pleasure - we all have issues) in hearing views - even vitriolic ones, and even ones that at their heart paint me as less valuable a human being than others - that I know are founded on thin air. I can see the mental leaps needed to find any sense in the arguments spouted by their commentators, I can think of facts - actual facts - that refute what they’re saying, and there’s a strength in that: in knowing that I can say with certainty that what I see on there, most of the time, is not viable news. No one can make me doubt myself by turning around and claiming: “Well, you can’t dismiss something you haven’t actually seen.”

And then there’s the content I turn to that’s a little more nuanced - but still based on mindsets I cannot quite wrap my head around or truly support - articles I see shared on Facebook that claim to outline the perfect way to live - how to be a perfect activist. And more than when I watch Fox News, reading these articles really does feel as though it expands my mind - not changing it, not showing me the “right” answer to a question I’ve been getting wrong for years: simply encouraging me to consider what led the writer to type out these words, what drives individuals to put their foot down and embrace extreme views of any kind.

Here’s the thing: there has always, always been an inherent struggle we’ve had to combat in our individual lives and the wider world. How much freedom are we willing to give up to feel safe? And how much safety are we willing to give up for freedom? There is no right answer - the gauge is constantly moving, shifting the balance of this eternal conflict, and to see the world as split into two competing sides - one which is indisputably right and one which is indisputably wrong - is not only misguided: it’s dangerous. It leads to an innocent woman speaking out for what she believes in being run down by a car and killed. It leads to individuals, themselves harbouring dangerous views, being given the ammunition to paint themselves as victims when they’re prevented from voicing their opinions and exposing their true nature.

It pains me to have seen no sign on Facebook that anything happened on the Berkley campus last Sunday, but it hurts me just as much to witness journalists I respect for the insights they offer turning the event into an excuse to verbally batter those who don’t want people they see as evil to speak on their college campus - who think it’s more important to follow a set of “rules” for living - for moving about the world as an activist among activists - than it is to simply listen, to consider that the world isn’t comprised of two sides, or even a spectrum

We aren’t points on a straight line, one person intrinsically more right or more oppressed than another. There’s so much that comprises each of our beings, and while I know, well and truly, that we have the capacity to hurt each other, that there are things as human beings that we shouldn’t want to do or say to each other, mirroring the violence and hatred we see in others cannot be the answer. When the weather - the natural world - is already taking people’s lives and causing unimaginable devastation, I simply can’t see the logic or heart in identifying the enemy in each other and beating that enemy into silence.

Kristen is an aspiring playwright and undeniable fangirl. In her spare time, you might catch her at an Ingrid Michaelson concert or finding her zen on a yoga mat. She’s currently living in Chicago and studying playwriting and screenwriting at Northwestern University.