Dancing in our truth and respecting others'

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Braving the discomfort of a conversation

Not only have Trump and his mob assaulted the rule of law. They have also trampled commonly accepted norms. We will not restore them unless we uphold them, including by making politicians who violate them pay the consequences on Election Day. We also need to raise our expectations of students.

If your college education never makes you uncomfortable, you are doing it wrong. If a culture of "triggering" leads you to claim your rights are violated every time your preconceptions are challenged, you are using fake fragility to hide from a world that you need to engage with for your own sake and that of others.

The reality of our diversity is not erased by hiding from it.

Since the deadly terrorist attack against Israel by Hamas on October 7, I have defended the longstanding American policy of embracing a two-state solution in which the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians to their own free and independent states are respected. Since then, I have been called both a Jew hater and a defender of genocide by people on different sides. No.

George Packer writes in The Atlantic that elite universities have "trained pro-Palestinian students to believe that, on the oppressor-oppressed axis, Jews are white and therefore dominant, not 'marginalized,' while Israel is a settler-colonialist state and therefore illegitimate. They've trained pro-Israel students to believe that unwelcome and even offensive speech makes them so unsafe that they should stay away from campus. What the universities haven't done is train their students to talk with one another."
How do we advance justice by making nonnegotiable demands? We cannot insulate ourselves from messy reality by hiding inside ideological bubbles.

When university administrators summon police to remove an illegal encampment, and the cops beat the crap out of nonviolent students and faculty, who are the criminals? When a university president is trapped between the demands of liberal faculty and those of demagogic congressional Republicans, what chance is there of finding a solution? Holding one another hostage is not governance.

We have to do better than saying "We don't want two states, we want it all!" on one side and "Expel them! Fire them! Cancel their funding!" on the other. Do we aspire to be a nation of Marjorie Taylor Greenes?

We need to pull ourselves together, individually and collectively. We need to have the difficult conversations and find the small patches of common ground from which vibrant, sturdy communities and nations are built.

Brutal police must be held responsible. At the same time, there is responsibility on the part of protesters who deliberately use the most inflammatory rhetoric to provoke an overreaction that helps the protesters' recruitment efforts. Advancing justice requires work, not just attention-getting.

I want a country where people resolve their differences without reflexively resorting to violence and authoritarianism. I want a country where people do not regard anything short of total agreement with everything they want as a betrayal. I want a country not riven by tribalism; a country where one political party does not insist on airbrushing away all the unpleasant parts of our history.

For that matter, I want a country with people smart enough to know that children are less fragile than they imagine; and that censoring the nasty bits of our past does not make them nor their enduring effects go away. I want a country in which people channel their anger productively—a country in which politicians get elected by appealing to the best in us, not the worst. Of our two leading presidential candidates, is there any question that Joe Biden is the better model of that?

I want an America in which people do not pretend to be threatened when some children have (say) one father they call Papa and another they call Daddy. The burden is not only on straight cisgender people to "get over it." It is also on us to be ourselves openly, quietly, and unashamedly.

Thus I was happy to see Politico reporter Eugene Daniels sitting next to Vice President Kamala Harris on April 27 at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. He posted on social media on National Coming Out Day last October about having learned "to dance in my truth everyday."

There Eugene was on the dais, being his poised and stylish self, which reminded me of how many African Americans dressed for the Black Panther premiere in 2018. In June he will become the first black openly gay president of the White House Correspondents' Association. Cheers!

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at [email protected].

Copyright © 2024 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.