Eric Hoover wants to start a pro-life group.
That’s what started all of this.
In the past two weeks, if you haven’t been paying attention, there’s been some back and forth between The Statesman and The Daily Pennsylvanian regarding, not only the treatment of Hoover on campus, but the treatment of the controversy and the pro-life group in general.
The newest development came last Wednesday in the Opinion section of the DP. Alessandro van den Brink took issue with The Statesman’s response to the DP article published on Hoover, saying that The Statesman argued in “conspiracy theory fashion.”
By this point, you probably think you know where I’m going with this. You think I’m going to refute van den Brink’s argument point by point, defend Hoover, the reputation of The Statesman, etc.
Although I could do that (I had an outline ready to go), I’m not going to.
I’ve been contemplating how to approach this article for days. Something didn’t feel right to me about attacking van den Brink even though I, and the rest of The Statesman staff, believe his accusations to be misguided. I thought about writing a letter stating what we feel the role of The Statesman is at Penn and how our coverage, no matter how disagreeable people may find it, serves a purpose and fills a void on campus. I also considered not writing anything at all and just letting it go…
Not many of you hear my voice. I’m quiet. I generally don’t write opinion articles. It’s likely that the only reason you may know who I am is that you’ve seen my laptop, which is covered with stickers saying anything from “Socialism Sucks” to “Ready to Beat Hillary.” But even then, you probably just see me as “that Republican girl.”
However, as the Editor-in-Chief of The Statesman, I think it’s necessary that I say something here, and I hope that the entire Penn community hears it.
I know what you’re thinking. Why would I say ‘thank you’ in a response article to someone who believes my organization’s claims to be overblown? Let me provide some context.
Back in early September, the President of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks, came to Penn. I had the privilege of hearing his talk yet again last Thursday night at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s Dinner for Western Civilization.
In Brooks’ speech, he tells this story in which, after writing his first book (which showed that conservatives largely give more to charity than liberals) he received this terribly angry email from a complete stranger.
In the email, the person repudiated every single point that Brooks made but, instead of being frustrated with this person for disagreeing with him, the thought running through Brooks’ head was, “Oh my God, this guy read my book!”
Brooks emailed the man back saying, “I spent two years working on this book, and you read every single page. Thank you.”
The man responded, inviting Brooks to get dinner with him sometime.
The barrier between the two was broken.
You see, Arthur Brooks believes that what has made our society so polarized is contempt for each other. If we don’t have the same political ideology we see one another as completely and utterly worthless. All one has to do is look at the presidential debates to see this theory in action.
Compassion, however, can remedy contempt, according to Brooks. He proves this in his email exchange with the stranger. If we show respect for one another, we can begin to remedy the terrible disease of contempt that has spread throughout our country.
On Thursday, Brooks told the audience, which was largely filled with conservative students, that this has to start with them. They have to hold themselves accountable. Don’t show contempt, show compassion.
I believe Brooks is right. As an aspiring journalist, I want to make it my moral obligation to not only report on what I believe to be important, but also to treat those who disagree with me with compassion. We need to start a new era of respect that will seep into our everyday lives and practices. The alternative is to pull further and further apart from each other, effectively destroying the great society that we’ve built.
To be completely honest, much like Brooks in his email story, when I read van den Brink’s article my first reaction was not anger or annoyance — it was gratitude that he actually cared about what The Statesman said even though he didn’t agree with what was written in the slightest.
I want to make the first move here to bridge our divide. Thank you Alessandro van den Brink. Thank you Daily Pennsylvanian. Without you, Penn would not be the strong institution that it is; there would be no dialogue, no exchange of ideas, and conservatives would not question what they believe in.
But without The Statesman, you would not question what you believe in.
I like to think that we’re on the same team, helping each other to be the best we can be.
I am also grateful that the University of Pennsylvania as an institution and the student body allow conservatives to express their opinions, even if it does cause some controversy. As Brooks mentioned in his talk, I am grateful that I don’t have to worry about a knock on my door at night with people angry at me for publishing something they don’t like.
And, finally, I am grateful that I live in a country that promotes the exchange of ideas through the freedom of speech. If that’s not a reason to say “God Bless America,” I don’t know what is.
This is a new beginning. I will not roll my eyes when I hear a point I take issue with. I will listen and debate, and I will always do it with respect and compassion for the other side.
I challenge you to do the same.
Say thank you to everyone who makes your life what it is.
Compassion is our answer.