At the beginning of this week, I fashioned a quaint little article full of quips and satirical references highlighting the issues I see in the Opinions section of the BV—mainly that it’s such a “He-Man, Woman-Hater’s Club.”
However, as much as I wanted to say, “men are better seen and not heard,” and as much as I wanted to ask some of our weekly writers to “take a knee this week,” as I wrote, I came to the realization that I was feeding into the problem I wanted to address: we’re writing opinions for the wrong reasons.
Let’s take a page from St. Francis’ life, as we are wont to do at a Franciscan university. I’m going to take a leap of faith and assume we have all heard of the small series of disputes known as The Crusades, but I’d like to look more specifically at the fifth Crusade, launched in 1219 by Cardinal Pelagius against al-Kamil the Sultan of Egypt.
What were the Crusades? Essentially one giant kerfuffle between Catholicism and Islam to see whose God was the “real” God, because we all know God’s deepest desire was for his followers to kill each other over who got the right to claim him.
What made the fifth Crusade different? Francis.
Francis was so sure of God’s plan for him, he marched right across enemy lines and began preaching to the Saracens and eventually met with the Sultan himself to discuss the merits of faith and the lifestyle that would most please God.
But what’s more important is how Francis crossed back over that line: not with criticisms about the ways his Muslim brothers differed from him, or lectures about their lack of infrastructure, not even a tweet about how fulfilled he was by seeing the way the “other half” lives.
Francis returned with a deeper understanding of his own faith through his experience and constructive discussion with others.
Too often, we perceive anyone who differs from us as opposite of us, a subconscious distinction that quickly turns an opinion piece into a personal attack. Every time you step in to “rectify” a situation, you make the assumption that it was broken in the first place.
When we write or vocalize an opinion with the goal of converting the “other,” we lose the power of our personal voice. An opinion piece should not be written seeking personal glory at the expense of others. Whether intentionally or not, you’re robbing someone of their dignity.
Human dignity is not a virtue we can choose to extend to those we think are deserving. Humanity is not a single gender, race, social class or sexuality; we are some of the most biologically and socially diverse creatures on the planet, and it’s time we stopped pitting those differences against each other.
Life is not a competition between opposite sides of a coin. Stop thinking it’s my opinion versus theirs. Stop thinking in terms of right and wrong.
Stop thinking you’re helping someone else when you’re really only helping yourself. Start thinking why you need to write in the first place.