September 14, 2014

WALSH | Intolerant of Intolerance

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In our four years at Cornell, we are exposed to hundreds of different cultures, languages, identities and backgrounds. Students and faculty at universities like Cornell are incredibly lucky to have this privilege. Despite what many think, higher education isn’t just about getting a diploma — it’s about getting an education in the world around you, and how to accept and love people who are different from you.

Recently, I was watching Al Jazeera English on television as they broadcasted their late-night news stories. During one segment, a reporter had a very bizarre meet-up with members of none other than the infamous Ku Klux Klan. As the reporter interviewed the men, donned in their traditional white robes and hoods, the absurdity of it all made me feel like I was watching a satirical clip from The Daily Show. These particular Klansmen were sounding off on the recent influx of immigrants on the United States’ southern border, and how they were pushing for the introduction of a “shoot-to-kill” bill in Congress.

Yes, you read that right — the Ku Klux Klan, somewhat unsurprisingly, wants to prevent illegal immigration by attempting to kill every person who tries to cross the border between the United States and Mexico. When the Al Jazeera reporter, stunned by this brutality, clarified to these men that the majority of the current immigrants are young mothers and children, the Klansmen chillingly responded, “We know.”

In college, we learn to think about different perspectives. We learn to think how people whose opinions differ from our own must feel about the issues. I am proud that at Cornell, I have learned these essential skills. Despite this education in respecting and understanding the opinions of others, however, I cannot respect or understand the views of the organizations that advocate for blind hatred.

Truthfully, I don’t understand how anyone could respect the views of these organizations. The Ku Klux Klan preaches hate for every person on earth who is a not a Christian of white European descent. The Westboro Baptist Church, another hate group in the United States, condemns LGBT individuals and pickets military funerals for seemingly no other reason other than to gain publicity of their hate.

The most baffling part of this hateful extremism is that these two organizations, and many like them, claim to be following Christian values. Although I don’t consider myself a Christian, I am still familiar with one of the most important parts of Christian doctrine: “love thy neighbor.” When the Westboro Baptist Church is screaming, “God hates fags,” at a pride parade, or the Ku Klux Klan is advocating for the murder of children, there is an obvious absence of any kind of love. The appropriation of positive and benevolent Christian values for messages of hate is enough to make anyone enraged, regardless of their religious affiliation.

Whether hate groups are actually experiencing resurgence or they are just gaining more media coverage, it is comforting to know that these organizations are the shouting minority in the United States. According to the National Opinion Research Center, acceptance of LGBT individuals is at an all-time high, indicated by statistics showing that over 64 percent of people under the age of 30 support same-sex marriage. While 100 percent acceptance would obviously be more desirable, acceptance is indeed a rising trend in our country, despite the efforts of some hateful organizations.

Acceptance, respect and understanding are some of the most important things one can discover at a place of higher learning. We at Cornell are lucky that we can learn about opinions, cultures and people different from ourselves. However, we must keep in mind throughout our lives that not everyone has this privilege. Not everyone has the chance to think about different perspectives or different backgrounds.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that we Cornellians have the opportunities to learn to accept and love other people and culture, that doesn’t mean everyone takes advantage of these opportunities. In my three years here so far, there have been far too many incidents of racial and cultural bias. There have been too many instances of blind hate. It is our responsibility as educated youth to move past these biases and embrace our fellow people. “Love thy neighbor” applies to more than just those who live near you — it applies to all humans with whom you share the Earth.

Our country today continues to face a plague of intolerance from hateful people and organizations. To combat this blind hate, we must first learn to accept and love each other and the people in our community. We must then take a stand and voice our intolerance of intolerance, perhaps the hate will eventually fade into the background of our country’s political and religious landscapes, and love will take its place.

Conna Walsh is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.  She can be reached at [email protected].  A Word with Walsh appears alternate Mondays this semester.