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Comment: Thoughts on a protest: We have a responsibility to listen

Why do we on the political left believe that shouting people down is any kind of solution whenever a substantive disagreement arises?
“1MillionMarch4Children” protesters, left, confront counter protesters at the B.C. legislature on Sept. 20, 2023. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A commentary by a local ­resident.

Walking around the protest that took place at the Victoria legislature on Wednesday at first left me feeling optimistic that so many people had shown up to choose love and show support for marginalized communities, but it soon turned into a feeling of unease, and wanting to leave.

I had come out at a friend’s invitation; I wanted to show some love for human beings who are sometimes made to feel less than, because I know what that’s like.

Instead I felt like I was walking onto an active battlefield, and witnessed two groups of people who were completely uninterested in hearing each other’s points of view.

I didn’t see good people on both sides, I wasn’t able to decipher anyone’s morals just by looking at them. I did, however, see human beings on both sides, 100 per cent of whom showed up because they felt strongly enough about one side or the other of an issue that they took the time to stand up and be counted, which itself is an act worthy of respect.

Those of us who chose to listen to the speakers on the podium heard one of them say words that no one present could disagree with: “Our communities are hurting. Our society is hurting.” I was left speechless when they continued: “We have a responsibility to hear each other; we have a responsibility to find peace.”

What could there possibly be in that statement to disagree with? And why do we on the political left believe that shouting people down is any kind of solution whenever a substantive disagreement arises?

I consider myself a centrist, but identify with many of the ideas on the left that have to do with allowing people to live their lives with dignity, and that every human is deserving of love and respect.

I was left saddened that the political tribe I relate to the most tried to silence others who it seemed to me only wanted their voices heard, and that counter protesters were only willing to act respectfully and lovingly to those who agreed with them.

Is screaming at those you disagree with anyone’s definition of effective dialogue? I was happy to show up and vote with my fellow rainbow-loving tribespeople, but was left deeply disappointed by the yelling and the taunting; by the Orwellian Two Minutes of Hate I witnessed from the side that I believed stood for love.

Rather than diving into the debate, and the merits of competing arguments, I would sooner find common ground around ideas we can all agree on.

First, gender issues are complex and highly contentious, and they make up the beating heart of intergroup ­conflict taking place in our society today.

Second, I would say that our levels of government are on the whole typically more competent than not, but that they are capable of making mistakes. I am slow to blindly trust policy-makers to consistently make the right call on subjects as new and unknown as the gender debate, and on the best way to teach subject matter to younger generations, that not many of us have a firm grasp on to begin with.

I have seen knee-jerk policy reactions take place, in the past three years especially, that have created lasting societal harm, so I can’t say I’m particularly jazzed to see how this same group of policy-makers plans to tackle the gender debate.

I don’t condone any of the fear-based ideas that the protest stood for. But I could see clearly that intolerance and hatred on the right, as pernicious and harmful as it has proven to be, was met with hatred and blatant dehumanizing on the left.

If children on a playground had behaved toward each other the way the people on that lawn did on Wednesday, those children would have been scolded for it.

Instead, the adults cheered on each other’s bad behaviour.

No one wins when society rips at itself. How bad do things have to get for us to finally understand that?

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