When we talk to each other about our deeply held beliefs about sensitive topics, it is difficult to see any challenge as anything less than a personal affront. This applies to many of the events that have affected the Taylor community.
The Echo has covered a number of these tumultuous events in the past two years. From “Excalibur,” to Starbucks to Vice President Mike Pence’s commencement speech, we at the Echo have tried our best to represent the voices of those who felt impassioned enough to say something.
Admittedly, this approach has its limitations.
While hopefully we have been able to serve as an outlet for the Taylor community to voice their thoughts, we know that there are countless others who have been unable to make their voices heard for a variety of reasons.
However, if anything has become apparent throughout this time, it is that Taylor community members on all sides of the issues want to talk. We want to discuss, debate and challenge each others’ ideas and perceptions. We just sometimes lack the words, or lack the knowledge of how to say them. In the process, we’ve hurt each other, leaving wounds that are unlikely to be healed by time alone.
With the return of Res Publica, which some would say has reopened these wounds, we at The Echo believe it is time to begin an active conversation about the issues that divide us. While the endgame is unity, the first step is open communication.
With the pro and con articles about Res Publica, we hope to take a step in the right direction. While both articles feature vastly different viewpoints, both see the need for open conversation, even if we disagree with each other.
As we continue, it is important to note that community members’ responses to recent events are merely symptoms of deeper theological, political and philosophical differences. These deeply held differences are part of our identities and perceptions of the world around us. When we challenge these perceptions, friction is inevitable.
This was evidenced at the Stand Up for Your Sibling event on Oct. 16. For several years, Stand Up for Your Sibling has been an opportunity for community members to find solidarity by sharing their struggles through an anonymous survey.
When students were asked if they felt isolated due to their political beliefs, a large percentage of those gathered answered yes. Standing among our peers in the packed chapel, it was clear this is an issue on a lot of students’ minds.
However, this only makes it more important to begin the conversation. Especially in a liberal arts environment like Taylor, having these discussions is an essential part of contributing to the marketplace of ideas. This idea hinges upon the principle that all ideas have worth, but that is up to the members of a community to determine their worth for themselves. In order to do so, however, we first need to listen to the ideas being presented, even if we disagree.
Alan Blanchard, associate professor of journalism, offered additional insight into the marketplace of ideas by referencing a Dec. 4, 2017, Forbes article by attorney Brian Miller. Miller, a researcher at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, addressed some of the benefits and tensions that come with the marketplace of ideas.
“In today’s legal debates, questions are often framed in an unhelpful (and illiberal) either/or manner,” Miller wrote. “Are we a nation that prizes non-discrimination and tolerance, or one that rigorously protects free speech? Are we a nation that values solidarity, or one that protects the free association of everyone?”
Blanchard said Miller answers his own questions in the article, writing: “The true liberal should recognize that we can answer, without contradiction, all the above questions with ‘yes.’ The marketplace of ideas has worked and we are all better off for it. But that isn’t the end of the story. And it’s hardly a reason to shut the marketplace of ideas down. If anything, it’s the best reason to keep it open.”
Historically, Taylor has made efforts to champion open debate and vigorous discussion about many issues. From open forums like TU GATHER to the theatre department’s Jason Francis scholarship production of “Clybourne Park” in fall 2017, Taylor has made strides to host open conversations.
According to Blanchard, challenges remain.
“How do universities foster civil debate of ideas and issues?” Blanchard said. “All the while maintaining collegiality, in close community, in the pursuit of unity?”
As we’ve contemplated what we wanted to say, we’ve reflected on the words of John Donne, the 16th century poet who argued we are all connected underneath the divinity of God:
“No man is an island, entire of itself;” Donne wrote. “Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
As we continue to discuss difficult topics, we sincerely hope we will be able to unite as a community once more.