CommunityPlus: Civility and hatred

  • Wednesday, January 11, 2017 1:30am
  • Opinion

What happens to a community when hatred rears its ugly head? Can a community engage in civil discourse about an instance of flagrant racial hatred?

Does the discussion itself pose a risk of being divisive, of raising issues that are uncomfortable because of what they might reveal about the community or of elements within the community?

Could simply talking about hatred serve to benefit those who hold or espouse such beliefs? Wouldn’t it be better to try to ignore such acts rather than call attention to them?

Over the past eight months CommunityPlus has published guest opinion columns and hosted a series of conversations that focused on what unites us as a community — the shared love we have for this wonderful place, the ways we treat each other with respect and friendliness regardless of our backgrounds, our origins, our differences.

Out of those conversations came a clear, deeply held and widely shared “sense of community” that had, at its core, a shared desire to make this place even more lovable and livable, and a belief that, if we worked together, we could and would accomplish that goal and make Sequim a place where all could thrive.

Recently, however, raw unadulterated hatred appeared — as racist, neo-Nazi slogans and images scrawled on notepaper and, as we understand it, displayed publicly at Sequim High School. This happened in our school, in our community. The question now, for us as a community, is: What are we going to do about it?

One answer, of course, is to do nothing. Ignore it. It isn’t a reflection of who we are as a community after all.

Another approach could be to downplay it. After all, it’s just one, isolated incident, isn’t it — a teenage prank that shouldn’t be blown out of proportion? The school administration will take care of it and, if those responsible are identified, they’ll be disciplined. So there’s really no need to get all worked up about it. Just let it go.

A third way of dealing with the issue would be to acknowledge it but insist that we move on and not engage in any discussion about it because the people who do such things are a very small minority just seeking attention. Since it isn’t a reflection of who we are as a community, let’s not elevate it to an unwarranted level of importance. In fact, doing so might unintentionally provide exactly the kind of forum that minority seeks — it would give them more opportunity to spout their hateful ideas. If we just kind of sweep it under the carpet, it’ll be fine.

Let’s be clear: None of these will benefit us as a community. All of them, in fact, carry significant risks to our community and our sense of community. All of them would, indeed, work to the advantage of those who hold and espouse hateful beliefs.

This incident, whether isolated or not, is a clarion call for our community and a test of our character as a community.

A civil discussion, even if a difficult, passionate one, about this incident and the broader set of issues and concerns it reveals, is imperative.

The next “Conversation on Our Community” will address this subject and we invite everyone to join us on Thursday, Jan. 19, at Baja Cantina (in the back banquet room at 531 W. Washington St.) from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

In the meantime, we urge everyone, regardless of whether you have kids attending Sequim schools, to seek additional information on the incident and what the school district is doing about it.

And we urge everyone to attend the next school board meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 17 in the district’s Administration Building to express your concern about the incident and hear what the school board has done or proposes to do to address it.

If you want to learn more about CommunityPlus, please go to our website, sequimcommunityplus.com.

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Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
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