This week’s headlines seem to show the worst in everyone. Political campaigns tend to divide more than unite. As the results from Super Tuesday, the 100-meter dash of the Republican primaries, roll in, we are bombarded by the divisive language of campaign season. Word about Rush Limbaugh and his comments about birth control have spread across Facebook and other social media sites. It is easy to paint the season with broad strokes of hatred toward politics and political parties.
Additionally, talks of war with Iran came into light as President Barack Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu early this week. The two discussed ways to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. We are reminded once again that Iran considers Israel and its allies to be the “Great Satan.” And even though the policy of the recent past has called for preemptive strikes against an armed threat, Obama reminds us that it is too soon to speak of warfare. “Loose language,” as he calls it, can only lead to poor decision-making and a dangerous response from Iran.
In light of this week’s political climate, last weekend’s Nobel Peace Prize Forum provides some hope for us all. Naomi Tutu, daughter of renowned South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, gave an address at the closing ceremony on March 3. Her spunk showed through her narrative, which flowed between the South African accent she grew up with and the American Northeastern accent that she gained as a student abroad. She called on everyone to call into question the labels they use to describe the other in their lives. The easier a label comes to mind, the more it should be questionable.
Her advice comes from South Africa’s history of structural violence. In the post-Apartheid era, people who committed crimes in support of or against the state had to face their deeds; many of them lied about their past even when they were promised no repercussions. Tutu said many of the perpetrators did not feel like they were responsible for the crimes they committed. Apartheid had turned people into monsters. It was some other part of them that took over.
When faced with unbelievable crimes or opinions, it is easy to point fingers and say how horrible the perpetrator is. How could someone publicly call a college graduate on birth control a prostitute? How can it be possible to hate a group of people so much as to wish their total destruction? We define them by their extreme opinions, their bigotry, their intolerance. The easiest definition comes from the most obvious and the most offensive actions. But Tutu tells us to look back ourselves and find that each one of us has the capability to hate and hurt others.
The news often makes it difficult to see the nuances of conflicts. After all, we print in black and white. The average person or situation, however, cannot be boiled down to one generalization. No one is altogether good or bad. So before we go into another round of finger pointing in a potential nuclear arms race, and before we dismiss the entire political system as corrupt or bigoted, let us remember that no one is simple. The rational, loving human being in all of us is also threatened by the potential monster that could be unleashed, given the opportune circumstance. Obama’s call for a hold on loose language could do everyone a bit of good. Our lives our too nuanced and complex to resort to simple labels.
I am a senior print journalism and global studies major. My passion for journalism stems from a desire to bring the world to the reader. I train actively in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai boxing. I live on coffee and Diet Coke. On a beautiful day, you might find me riding my motorcycle around town.