The Challenging Discourse of Tolerance
It seems as if there will never be peace in the world. Just as disconcerting is the harsh reality that there may never be peace here at UCI. Why? There isn’t enough respect and tolerance to truly appreciate diversity and multiculturalism on campus. There is a sense of animosity between student groups on the basis of racial, ethnic, religious, political and/or national background, among other things. Where did we go wrong? Why does this university have such a difficult time with diversity and tolerance? Several events this week detailed the fact that we need discussion now more than ever.
The silent protest in recognition of the centennial anniversary of the Armenian Genocide committed by the now-defunct Ottoman Empire during the Great War was held throughout the week. As they articulated on one of their informational displays, only 22 states acknowledge the tragedy for what it is, a genocide. Unfortunately, it seems that most students brushed it off while President Obama refused to use the “g-word” to describe the mass murder. Though I understand that it may make people uncomfortable, it is necessary to discuss, but we should not place blame on anyone alive today for the actions perpetrated a hundred years ago. Instead, we should just recognize the unfortunate truths of our past including the Armenian Genocide.
On Thursday afternoon, another event caught my eye. As students were celebrating Israeli-American culture and cooperation, a group of dissenting students protested the event in solidarity with Palestine. This vocal and heated confrontation called for the restitution of Israeli lands to Palestine. Before I go on, let me be perfectly clear. I support a two-state solution with pre-1967 borders because I believe in the right of Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, to self-determination and statehood. I also, however, believe in the universality of Jerusalem as a sacred site, not of Israel or Palestine, but of humanity.
Both sides are inherently wrong and short-sighted in their discourse against one another. Muslim and Arab students shouldn’t promote anti-Zionism and pro-Israel and Jewish students should not overlook the plight of Palestinians who desire what the Jewish people have sought for millennia: a place to call home where they can serve God freely and promote progress in a free and democratic society, not as second-class citizens, but as equals in the table of nations.
In cities across the U.S., we continue to see police use excessive force, particularly against black Americans who committed minor offenses. Protests, both violent and nonviolent, arise as a result of inaction from local and federal authorities. The slogan “Black Lives Matter” is continuously seen on picket signs and posters. On the other side of that, we see growing antipathy against police and other law enforcement officers, with some protesters inciting violence against police officers.
Similarly, on campus, there is a continued tension between the administration and Black Student Union. If there is no productive dialogue between the two parties, and students in general, it does not seem that we can move further without tensions. The administration should understand students’ needs and hopes more clearly and more empathetically. Students like to vilify the administration for all our woes, but they’re pretty much politicians. They are trying to appease students while also pleasing the regents. Certainly, they must prioritize their interests.
It would take days to discuss every single incident including those involving the Greeks, ASUCI, DREAMers and many of our fellow students and faculty who have sought to have this conversation without judgment or discrimination. The flag ban controversy showed us that we have to stop using inclusivity to justify our own lack of tolerance and respect, but instead, we must appreciate these discussions and differences of opinion to get to a better place.
We all strive to be treated as human beings endowed with equality in dignity and respect. We cannot and must not let our own fragile sensibilities get the better of ourselves, or find the need to walk on eggshells to avoid offense or disagreement. I just hope we have the patience and the courage to hear each other and understand each other. Let us always remember the old saying: “Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner. To understand all is to forgive all.” Let’s get started.
Nathan J. Lainez is a second-year history major. He can be reached at email@example.com.