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#tolerancemeans humanizing your opposition

Updated: Apr 8

Anthony Campus, Undergraduate, St. Mary's College of California

People often fear discussing politics at dinner tables or workplaces, and society has deemed it taboo. A pervasive fear surrounds the topic of politics, as people believe that talking about it will lead to controversy and arguments between friends or family. Many may not realize it, but it is ingrained in our society that politics equates to anger and hate. The mere mention of the word "politics" has built such a negative connotation that it attracts fearful glances, anticipating what might follow. Hate rushes through people's emotions when they hear someone oppose their views.

Anthony Campus, Undergraduate, St. Mary's College of California

On this very campus, I've witnessed firsthand the impact of political discussions on people and a hostility that I never thought I'd see in person. When the Roe v. Wade decision was overturned, the United States descended into a chaos of protests and uproar. Saint Mary's was no exception to this. I will never forget the day when a student club was tabling about pro-life ideas and was confronted by pro-choice students. The confrontation escalated immediately; there was no friendliness or compromise. They viewed each other as enemies, dehumanizing one another. Flyers were torn and stolen, and the quad resounded with yelling and hateful words. I was shocked, and so was much of the school.

After that day, I decided I wanted to do something to prevent such incidents from happening on campus again. Then, in perfect timing, BridgeUSA came into my life. BridgeUSA is a nonprofit organization that creates spaces on college campuses for open discussion between students about political issues. With their help, Andrew Melendez and I established something new but truly necessary on our campus: a safe place where people can engage in humanizing discussions about politics. When we attempted to start our chapter, we encountered skepticism, with people thinking we were a pro-Republican club. With this assumption, some sought to have our club denied, for fear of the ideas we might spread. Yet our chapter was founded entirely with the goal of breaking the societal connotation of politics, aiming to eliminate hate, arguments, and fear. Through our actions, we bridged a divide that was previously unknown to me. Staunch conservatives and even stauncher liberals engaged in meaningful conversations. These discussions became opportunities to listen, truly listen, rather than just respond.

That is tolerance. Tolerance means humanizing your opposition, engaging in conversations instead of arguments with those who oppose your beliefs. It doesn't mean becoming best friends with them; the true purpose is endeavoring to meet at a place of understanding. How can you achieve that if all you see is a faction, a set of beliefs, or opposition, instead of seeing them as, well, a person? It all starts with asking why. Why do Republicans believe in certain things? Why do Democrats support specific policies? Let's talk about it. Even as we begin to play with the idea of fostering tolerance within our campus, tolerance must be taught through action and advocacy of understanding. None of us alone can bring tolerance to this campus but it is in the populous, it is us together as a whole, that can forge a tolerant society through the humanization of those we may consider as “opposition”.



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