Have conversations that unite, not divide

By The Beacon | February 28, 2013 3:19pm

By Nastacia Voisin |

When the Occupy movement cropped up in Portland I was rather jazzed by the energy of the whole thing.

I was delighted that a somewhat rag-tag, imperfect community of protesters from different walks of life had the audacity to camp and protest and wave signs – all without a particular endpoint.

Unlike a typical revolutionary movement, which targets an enemy and has a goal to defeat it, the occupiers of Portland had a narrative arc. Rather than fighting for a specific solution, the Occupy movement discussed its worth, recognized its flaws, and marched on. It was messy and aggravating, but it kept on like some kind of self-sustaining protest village.

Here at UP, there is a movement of our own beginning to rumble and rattle windows.

Let me say first that it is a surprise and delight that individuals have found the passion and energy to unite in mutual protest on both sides of the issue of inclusion.

I’m proud that my fellow students are not afraid to openly clash with aspects of this institution they deem unfair, and I also respect those who defend it.

What is dismaying to me is how some conversations have turned into close-minded confrontations.

It’s so easy to fall into the rhythm of the rhetoric of violence and it’s hard to track ideas as they jump from student to student. Arguments without merit or flavor are being shared among like-minded individuals, drawing strength from indignation rather than logic. It troubles me that I’m starting to hear critical, recycled soundbites being passed around campus. I find that many students are quick to rally around an idea, and swift to become a mob.

I realize that the values that are at stake are important to many people here, but ugly words from the mouths of the righteous are not made beautiful. Regardless of what we think of each other’s opinions, we should at least begin by respecting everyone’s right to have an opinion.

The Occupy movement had gaping flaws and a powerful voice. It shook things up on the streets for a while. I’ve criticized and praised it alike, but it showed brief flashes of triumph when the conversations it started united people rather than divided them.

I realize that there are hundreds of retorts to my plea. But before locking out the voice of the opposition, I ask everyone to remember that the greatest powers in conflicts are the conversations that unite rather than divide.

By all means speak out for what you believe in. But first, make sure you believe in the words you speak.

Nastacia Voisin is a sophomore communications major. She can be reached at voisin15@up.edu.