How have we come to this?
Thursday, November 10, 2016
I teach. I have wonderful students. No, they're not all brilliant, they don't always try as hard as they could, and sometimes they even fall asleep in lecture (how could they?!) but they all are lovely, caring, people. At least that's how they have struck me. They come from all backgrounds, races, religions, sexual orientations, and political points of view. They are all my students.
In the past two days, we've experienced incidents on our campus involving some students being harassed and insulted based on what some others apparently view as their "differences." It has gotten to the point where faculty have had to band together to offer their support to students and our president has had to send out an email notice informing our campus that we are a family and intolerance is not acceptable. He has had to remind some members of our community that we have an anti-discrimination policy, and that we all owe each other mutual understanding and respect.
When did it become acceptable in our society to label people as "-" (fill in whatever horrible epitaph you wish)? When did we lose our sense of respect for our fellow humans, and begin to insist that they fit a particular mold in order to be considered "one of us"? When did we forget that "We the people..." means ALL of the people? My father fought and earned a Purple Heart for this country. He instilled in his children a great love of our nation and the belief that we are ALL equal. And yet we seem to have lost our way recently. When people in the limelight use their notoriety to insult others, to suggest that some be treated differently based on national origin or religion, that women are somehow not worthy of being treated as equals but rather as objects, and when we don't respond strongly enough, with a unified voice that this is unacceptable, then I guess this is what we've wrought.
We should never forget that our children are watching and listening. That when we put the word B*TCH on a t-shirt and wear proudly it to a rally, we are sending a message about all women and their place in our society. That when we talk about "those people" in a way that is derogatory, we are sending the message that it's okay to lump people into categories based on where they were born, or the color of their skin, or the religion that they practice.
My students deserve support and respect. All of them. It breaks my heart to think that some of them are facing bigotry and harassment because some people now think that kind of behavior is okay. I don't know how we turn this around and reclaim the moral high ground, but I know that if we wish to retain our national identity as the government for the people and by the people, this is what we have to do. Let's start by vowing to treat each other with more kindness. By making deliberate attempts to reach out to someone who may be faced with this kind of discrimination and let them know that they are valued members of our community. By sending messages to any of our leaders or celebrities who engage in this kind of behavior that we will not tolerate it. Let's start today - tomorrow may be too late.