A Complex Shade of Grey
By: Thomas Scott
Recently the United States has confronted the ugly face of partisanship. Today it is considered noble for a politician’s career to be bent on ending the president’s. Today it is honorable to discredit an entire movement because they protest your policy initiatives. Hate is fueled by the idea that others must be wrong since you are right. We refuse to even attempt to understand our enemies, denying they have legitimate opinions. America, and the world, is only weakened by our black and white ideology. True success comes from compromise, understanding and celebrating the world as a complex shade of grey.
But, what does shades of grey mean? It must be more than an awesome Billy Joel song. Let us analyze this idea through a current issue. The New York Times reported on February 10, 2011 about the treatment of the Muslim Student Union at the University of California, Irvine. This group embarrassed itself and the university they represent by interrupting a speech by an Israeli Ambassador on campus and protesting by defaming Israeli flags in separate incidents. These are disrespectful and childish acts of hate. These actions indicate that many members of the student group are set in their thinking, refusing to look at the world from different points of view. Seeing Israel mainly as an evil, black, state ensures the group members that their actions are justified. However, I believe the university was justified in suspending the club for its actions.
Yet, there is no denying that the members of this Muslim group are victims like the Palestinians they support. Israel has proven itself a tough, if not unfeeling, country in terms of its national security. The members of the University of California Muslim Student Union have understandable fears, as they live in a nation with a legislature willing to hold McCarthy–like hearings targeting Muslims, helping fuel an already overly suspicious public’s animosity. Muslims have become an alienated group in the West. People often turn to hate, refusing to even try and understand Muslims with their diverse points of view.
We live in a world in which the victim victimizes the aggressor, under the justification of being right. The Muslim Student Union certainly feels it has justice on its side, and those who criticize them believe the just action is theirs. It seems truth is in the eye of the beholder. What makes this idea interesting is that, by such logic, the objective idea of truth cannot exist. We debate because there are numerous legitimate opinions, not because there is one right answer. The Muslim Student Union should protest the suffering of Muslims worldwide but this should not blind them from the point of view of those who make them suffer. Radical actions, whether seemingly harmless like interrupting a speaker, or overtly tragic such as terrorism, should be scorned. Yet neither action should cause people to vilify an entire religion and its associated groups for their actions. A speech by a representative of an opposing group is an opportunity to understand their different point of view and learn from them. Understanding your enemy enhances the prospects of making them your friend. After all, respect is a sign that one understands and acknowledges another and their beliefs, regardless of what these beliefs are. The Muslim group at the University of California failed to recognize this and they will suffer the punishment received for their inability to listen and see the world beyond their black and white view. Others are often too quick to demonize the Muslim community, clinging to their belief in a security risk, and thereby possibly radicalizing those they wish to moderate. Both these groups are not bad people. They are however misunderstanding the world in which they live.
President Richard Nixon once said “Always remember others may hate you but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.” Let us hope that the student group in Irvine can learn this lesson before they lose their selves. Let us hope that as a nation we a can learn this lesson before we let partisan politics, from all political parties, from all religions, and from all points of view, tear the country apart. Let us hope the world can learn this lesson before countries and non-state actors leave behind nothing but dust. We can and will start seeing the world in shades of grey.
(The opinions expressed in this article in no way reflect upon those of the New York Times or the authors of the February 10th article.)