Sunday, May 17, 2009

On protest

So there were protests at Notre Dame over (and during) the President's commencement address and I thought, "Why are you doing this?" -- protesting, I mean. Of course, I thought the same about the protests over Rick Warren giving the prayer at the inauguration, so it's not just about one side or another.

I don't even think it's about protests, per se. Primarily I am uncomfortable that public protests with banners and marches and speeches seem to be the initial and default position. Surely if you start there, it leaves you nowhere else to go. It also seems to be a method that shuts down communication which is certainly not the way to resolve conflict.

I also wonder if we are spending too much of our energy trying to make everyone agree. I well believe that "disagreement" has real-world consequences; I'm not suggesting that we should all agree to disagree or stop working to bring about the policies and practices that we think are best. But I think we also need to recognize that people do disagree for a wide variety of reasons based on their philosophies and experiences and beliefs, and that inviting someone who disagrees with us to speak while we listen may not be the worst thing we could do.

Listening does not convey agreement. It is not passive. It is not weak. It is, in fact, very, very hard work.

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