Lois Collins: Protests should build and illuminate, not stifle others’ voices

Matt York, AP

People protest outside the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Phoenix. Protests were held against President Donald Trump as planned to host a rally inside the convention center.

It’s disheartening that so many people have defaulted to my-way-or-else entrenchment in a world that desperately needs people to work together, look at issues from different angles and problem solve.

We are losing our ability even to listen to anyone who doesn’t share our views. The most frightening thing, though, is how badly some people want to shut others up entirely.

It makes enemies of people who should simply be people who see things differently. It encourages labeling — often unjustly — that can harm and stick with someone. I’m against racism. So if you and I see things differently, you’re a racist, right? Or am I racist because you think you’re not one? Worst, some of the people who slap labels on other people do so impulsively or from irritation rather than any basis in fact.

Our emerging intolerance for anything outside of our own belief system is bad on so many levels, starting with the fact it’s simply rude and moving into dangerous territory: It stifles understanding, withers any hope of learning or growth and too often escalates to just plain mean. It is contrary to the important role that civilized debate and disagreement have played in America’s history — and the many ways they made us better.

This has not changed for me: I do believe in rallying for and against causes and big ideas, though when I chose to be a journalist, I became a chronicler, not a marcher. But the heartbeat of a marcher is something I’ve tried to pass on to my daughters, encouraging them to speak out for their beliefs — even when they don’t match mine, which is happening more often as they mature and ponder our world. I wish they’d get it right, but I will never not love them because we disagree.

We benefit from hearing others’ views — even if they’re maddening. I’m not talking about hate speech or its ilk, but genuine philosophical differences by people of at least fairly goodwill and sincere intent. I have attended speeches by conservatives and liberals, interviewed people…

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