Editor’s Note: A Case For Civility

A counter-protester hurls insults at a Portland Police officer during a rally on Aug. 4. Photo Credit: Alex Gaub

Treat others how you want to be treated. It’s a fairly simple statement. I’m sure nearly every culture and tradition has a variant of it. Why then, have we sapiens struggled to honor that simple code? We argue, we fight, we war amongst ourselves. And we hate.

We hate because we are afraid. Hate can be a strong motivator; it can be weaponized to protect a society from incursion and defeat. It can also be misdirected — owing to an irrational fear.

There are some in our society — even our small college community — that see a threat from diversity. Fear has been stoked by political leaders, and hateful speech has reared its head. Like a hydra, the mythical beast, in one time and place the head is chopped off — only to appear again in another place, another time.

While everyone in our nation is secured the freedom to form and to express their own opinion (and rightfully so), we should also abide by a common code of human decency. “Treat others how you want to be treated” is a good place to start. Although it is subject to how others treat themselves, I think we can mostly agree that being targeted based on religion or what we wear is hurtful.

The fact that our society has special organizations — which promote and protect the many diverse peoples that we find among us — is evidence of exclusion. Is it right to further harass and make these groups of people feel isolated? Making hurtful comments creates fear. And fear begets hate.

Thus, we find ourselves in a vicious circle. An ever-revolving escalator of tension, fear, and hate.

Covering the story of hate speech this last week has further opened my eyes to underlying issues and divides within our community. This letter is my best attempt at identifying those comments as hate speech, but not condemning the author of those comments for their opinion.

Maybe some argue that the comments made were not hate speech; I will use the definition found on Wikipedia: “speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

I think any Muslim woman wearing a niqab, or hijab, would feel attacked by someone telling them that there are too many of them wearing “body bags” on OSU’s campus.

So if we identify hate speech but we don’t want to condemn the person who is disseminating that speech — how then do we go about opposing their views?

My belief is that we should do it by trying to understand why someone would feel that way. It doesn’t validate their opinion, but it also doesn’t further isolate the holder of that opinion.

I know, I know, we hear it all the time — “What we need right now is a little more understanding.” It’s true, though. If we all came at issues with a little more compassion, and an ability to think critically — devoid of negative emotion — we just might come out a little bit stronger and more united.

The only way to move out of the cycle of hate is to understand why we feel the way we do. Are our fears rational?