A reader writes:
Keith, I know you’ve linked to Jimmy Dore’s interview with Daryl Davis, so you’ve probably seen this talk before, but the story Davis tells is something folks on both the left and the right should pay attention to and really think about. https://youtu.be/ORp3q1Oaezw I saw it a while ago but was reminded of it again while reading Matt Taibbi’s recent piece on the Ira Glasser film. As Taibbi discusses, there are many on the left now who view the kind of right to free speech that Glasser championed as misguided, obsolete, and dangerous. And there are certainly those who would probably say that Davis’s commitment to respect and dialogue is at best naive and at worst equally dangerous, as such an approach somehow “validates” or “empowers” groups who deserve no such niceties. I imagine one objection to the “respect” Davis talks about would be “Why should we give respect to those obviously horrible people? They don’t deserve respect.” Which, of course, misses the point entirely.
If someone actually wants to change society for the better, they should always be willing to talk to “the other side”. Respect (without compromising one’s own beliefs), as Davis’s story illustrates, has the power to be incredibly disarming and even transformative. And, as Davis points out, hate is ultimately a product of fear. Understanding as best as you can exactly why your adversary fears (and what they fear), is the beginning of trying to find a bridge between yourself and them, and if such a conversation is give-and-take, it is possible that even with someone whose views you find despicable, you may begin to find common ground that can point to ways out of the mess we all find ourselves in. But if one has already reached the conclusion that conflict and ultimately bloodshed are the only solution, then yes, you will find offering such respect to be a weakness and a danger. Someone might say, “Well, it’s easy to talk about dialogue and respect, but the other side wants us dead.” But every group views itself as acting in self-defense.
Every group thinks they are thinking and acting in the right. See the example of Germans who really did believe it was necessary to “solve the Jewish question” in some way in order to “save” their “country”. The elites in any society will play their games and make their moves to pursue policy that is in their own best interest, which I assume they tell themselves to also be in the best interest of the people, however they define “the people”. But if people remember that the others they are forced to share a society with are people as well, with hopes and fears just as they have hopes and fears, then there is always the potential for conversation, and from there, who knows what can happen. People must give up the mad dream of vanquishing the enemy before they vanquish you, which only perpetuates a cycle of violence, as well as the machine of the state which only feeds off these fears and fearborne blood and power lust. We may live together, or we may live separately, or we may come to discover and build new ways of arranging societies not yet tried, and not yet able to be described. But if people stay afraid of each other, and only become ever more afraid of each other, then they’re right where the real enemy wants everyone to be. People must still dare to break bread for any kind of real future to be possible.
Categories: Race and Ethnicity