Volume 97 Issue 4 Oped


by Erin Gaines

He believes. She believes. They believe. Our opinions and our views are held tightly. We call for ears to listen, for someone to see our side, for anyone to agree.

He wants to be heard. She wants to be heard. They want to be heard. Our voices get louder and louder and louder. Many times we will reach an impasse in conversation. Everyone is speaking, but no one is listening. What else can be done to get the point across?

Over the course of history, people have stood up for what they believe. The African-American Civil Rights Movement garnered rights for 18.9 million people (based on 1960 Census Bureau data). The Women’s Rights Movement spanned over 70 years and saw the turn of the 20th century before reaching success. The Anti-War Movement opposed national decisions to carry on armed conflict regardless of any decidedly just cause.

Each of these movements wasn’t resolved in a day. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches, the lunch counter sit-ins and Rosa Parks’ decision not to give up her seat didn’t happen in one year. Elizabeth Cady Stanton didn’t see the result of women’s rights activism before she died in 1902. Jan Rose Kasmir held a chrysanthemum and stood inches from armed men during the Anti-War Movement, but we still wage wars.

For each activist, there seems to be someone with an opposing view. Just because someone has shut you down, your movement and your opinions are not destroyed.

There is a chronic problem in our attempts at dialogue covering controversial issues. It seems we have forgotten that our opinions are not held by everyone else. It seems we have dismissed conversation to rely on other means to garner support. It seems we have removed ourselves from listening and truly hearing what others have to say.

We’re all familiar with the passive-aggressive post-it note in some way or another. It has become clear at that point that someone has something to say to you, but are not willing to vocalize it. Perhaps it is out of fear of repercussions or out of fear of being rejected and shut down. Is maintaining anonymity more important than vocalizing passion for a cause?

Yik Yak has become a virtual expression of passive-aggression for the modern technological age. Having the ability to post a comment, complaint or grievance without having to face consequence has appeal. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You get five down-votes and it disappears.

The likelihood that someone knows exactly who made the post is slim. You can tell someone exactly how much you dislike them or bash a cause, movement or group of people without having to see the distress on another human’s face. But why? If there is something to be said, should we be afraid to come out and say it?

For those of us who are feeling bolder about our choice to express our opinions, we’ll opt for a more overt technological medium. Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram have given us the ability to say what we want

When problems arise, the first response should not be protest. The first response should not be retaliation. The first response should be listening. Whether we are supporting or opposing the cause at hand, we need to ask ourselves what is being said? If we cannot listen to others, how can we expect others to listen to us?-

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