Thursday, April 24, 2008

April 25, 2008 is Day of Silence

I've never participated in the day of silence. When I was in school that was something that just wasn't ever observed. Living in a very conservative, rural part of the country, open homosexuality, particularly at a young age, just isn't too often heard of. But, even if the day of silence had been observed at school, I do not think I would have cared to join in.

I respect the mission and purpose for having a day of silence in schools. It's a good thing to bring to attention the need to eliminate hate and intolerance and prejudice. However, this particular method of bringing attention to these problems, in my opinion, is slightly misguided.

When I hear silence is to be observed, the first thing that comes to my mind is intolerance and closed-mindedness. To be silent and not speak to those who disagree with you shows a certain level of intolerance in itself for what anyone else would have to say or think. It's like you're being intolerant because you don't like it when other people are being intolerant of you. It just seems hypocritical to me.

Now, I'm not going to promote Exodus' day of truth, because I've never participated in that either, but the idea of it seems more to my liking. Reason being, there's room for discussion. It's a day designed for the same purposes in mind as the day of silence, but it's a day wherein people can openly discuss their thoughts and opinions and, to my mind, be more tolerant.

I think that's what we need more of these days. We need more tolerance for others. We need more openness. We need more discussion. We need more debate. We need a day where people can talk to each other and learn to build more positive and tolerant lines of communication with each other. I think our young people need this in particular these days. They need to be taught these things, and to know that school is a safe place for them and not some dangerous battleground.

I'd personally like to think that I'm an open-minded person. When people have a difference of opinion than me, I'm willing, and often eager, to hear them out. Reason being, I like knowing what the opposition thinks. And the reason for that is that I like to be challenged in my thinking. I'll admit I like to be right. But, I'll also admit, I'm often wrong about a lot of things. So, if I listen to others and they present new arguments or opinions I've never heard about before, and they make sense, I realize I might learn I've had the wrong ideas about certain things and will therefore change my opinion.

Point in case, in my last post I talked about Jason debating me on hate crimes legislation for homosexuals. I was once strongly opposed to the idea of that, but because of those conversations I had with Jason, he convinced me there's a need for such legislation (so long as it's actually hate crimes legislation and not thought control legislation—there is a difference there). Now, I know some of our debates got a little heated from time to time, but I always respected Jason and was eager to hear from him, even though we disagreed on certain matters. But the point is that we learned from each other. I learned from him, and I hope he learned from me. And we didn't do that by being silent, or refusing to listen to each other or by trying to silence each other. We talked and listened to each other, presented our arguments, and respected each other in the process. I never felt threatened by him and he never felt threatened by me. We were just two people discussing our differing opinions in a civilized, tolerant way.

There doesn't need to be silence. If anything, there should be more discussion. Rather than a day of silence, I'd rather see a day of discussion, when students can discuss their thoughts and feelings and (hopefully) in a safe environment. I just think to be silent is an expression of intolerance. So this day of silence, I say don't be silent, be vocal. Speak up and get people talking about these issues. Speak up and express yourself. Speak up and make a difference. And remember to listen while others say their peace as well. Be tolerant and open-minded and you may surprise yourself by learning a little bit of something you didn't know before.

Now, I'm not saying I'm opposed to the day of silence. I think overall it is a very good thing, and I have no doubt that it's probably helped a whole lot of people. The issue I have with it is the silence. It's the approach I dislike. The reason people tend to feel hatred or prejudice toward others is because they don't really know or understand those who are different from them. They're afraid of the unknown. And so, to talk to them, to attempt to share your beliefs, and to treat them better than they've treated you, to be a friend to them, I think is the better way to go. Don't respond to hatred with silence. Respond to hatred with love and respect and understanding. Yes, understanding. Learn to know that other person, and when you know why they think as they do, then you're better able to reach them to know and understand you in return. And those fears and walls of hatred get torn down.

1 comment:

ewe said...

you are in the closet Brandon. that is why you feel that way. You should google "GLSEN" if you really want to know the basis of a day of silence. By the way, this is one case when you are the elder. Start supporting it.