Meaningful discussion needed in America, on our campuses

Tori Hoffman

Healthy debate stifled by loudness


It’s not hard to notice unapologetically loud voices in the midst of today’s debates and movements. Recently, Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, 150 protesters went out to Amazon’s annual shareholders meeting in which they organized a plane with a banner reading “Bezos needs a boss” to fly over them.

While there are benefits to being loud, with any strong voice or message, there is a time and place.

It is extremely important to recognize human rights violations, to stand up for those who are outside of the margins established by society’s most privileged, and who are therefore not always heard. As a person with privilege, I feel it is my duty to do so.

However, it is equally important to be able to explain your actions and their meaning to someone who may not understand your cause or why you are fighting for it.

Loudness hinders such discussion, making for fewer and fewer examples of healthy discussion and debate.

In our government, our places of work and college campuses, efficiency and independence are prioritized at the expense meaningful communication, growth and connection.

We have become accustomed to chaos in our leadership, as evident in President Trump’s Twitter drama that led to a court ruling against him and his perceived right to block people on his personal Twitter account.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald wrote that the case required the court to decide whether “a public official may, consistent with the First Amendment, ‘block’ a person from his Twitter account in response to the political views that person has expressed, and whether the analysis differs because that public official is the President of the United States.”

Judge Buchwald concluded that the “answer to both questions is no.” And what an important win for the First Amendment that was.

If our own “fearless leader” can’t manage the discussions and debates coming his way, after the types of messages he spews into our information systems, then he should adjust his demeanor accordingly rather than attempting to have the social networking service do it for him.

We even see this in our schools and local communities.

I feel that my schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture. Why? Because topics such as these were either hushed or cloaked in ministry.

If anything, SPU’s dominant message is that “the culture”, however damaged it is, is something out there in the world that we prepare for within our Queen Anne haven. At SPU, we are all about tackling difficult topics, but discussion on those topics gets muddied when it doesn’t start with the self.

We need to study and discuss the need for strong objectivity, the notion that the perspectives of marginalized and/or oppressed individuals can help to create more objective accounts of the world.

Strong objectivity says we need everyone’s voices to be our best as a society.

Educating and being educated on this topic looks like recognizing one’s own privilege and understanding the systems that perpetuate it. From there we can learn to exercise healthy expression and have healthy conversations in hopes of normalizing true equality, acceptance and unity.

We as both individuals and a community suffer from a lack of healthy debate, discussion and power to incite change on our own campus and in our world.

To stop the cycle, we must educate each other and participate in meaningful discussion. We can be loud, but we have to walk the walk if true change is to happen.