Reflections on Recent Events
Dear Colby Community,
I feel the heaviness of our times. The heinous murder and harm inflicted on worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was an unspeakable act of terror, and as devastating as it was, it was not an isolated event. Just in the last week we saw public figures have their lives threatened for their political views and African-American shoppers killed at a grocery store near Louisville, reportedly because of their race.
These acts are part of a continuum of hate-fueled violence rippling through our country and around the globe. Shootings in schools and workplaces, in houses of worship and medical centers. Unending violence in neighborhoods, and state-sponsored killings around the world. The personal costs of this systemic violence are inestimable, as we saw today through those most directly affected by the Pittsburgh shooting.
Like many, I find myself looking outward as well as inward, searching to understand my own complicity in a culture that allows hatred, ignorance, and violence to fester, and asking what I can do to bring about much-needed change. What is my responsibility to act when the stakes are high but the issues are so complex and seemingly beyond the reach of any one person?
I wrestle with those issues anew today. And I know I can do better. But what does better look like for me? My answers are not as fully formed as I would like, but I want to share my initial thoughts and encourage you to think and talk about these issues as well.
1. Our everyday interactions matter. Do we treat one another with respect, courtesy, and civility? Do we favor humility over hubris, compassion over indifference? Our social fabric is sewn together or torn apart by the mundane but essential actions that define our shared humanity and connections to one another.
2. We must find courage to intervene when the moment calls for it. Every time we avert our gaze, muffle our hearing, or stifle our action when it is needed most, we create the conditions for harm and mistreatment. This is true in the quotidian acts as well as in the larger, more life-shattering incidents. Ignoring the vitriolic, anti-Semitic online threats by a deranged and dangerous man has monumental consequences. We must unequivocally reject and condemn acts of prejudice and bias. This is no time for silence or inaction.
3. In addition to holding ourselves to the highest standards, we must insist our leaders from all political parties be accountable for behavior and actions that damage our communities and country and undermine the democratic values and institutions that are bedrocks of this nation. We must be engaged civically and politically, and no matter our personal politics, we need to do so respectfully and with a true commitment to understanding multiple perspectives on issues. For those legally able to vote, remember that our democracy depends upon an active citizenry. I will be traveling on election day, so I have already voted via absentee ballot. Make your voices heard as well.
4. It is our obligation to listen, to learn. Let’s push ourselves to develop a deeper understanding of the root causes of the most important issues of our times so we can ultimately address them. The purpose of Colby’s community is to create and disseminate knowledge, to challenge conventions through critical analysis and the careful assessment of evidence, and to use our tools of discovery to illuminate truth and paths forward. We have to make the most of our time together at Colby.
I recognize how important it is for me to do more in each of these areas. It is easy to feel powerless over a political system that appears broken and a social contract that, as much as it ever existed, seems no longer binding. Nevertheless, we must all accept the possibility that we can be the initiators and sustainers of positive change. Individual and collective action have always been the source of progress and good in the world.
I encourage you to join me in thinking about what we might do as individuals and as a community to alter this dangerous course we are on, to end the acts of personal destruction and violence, and to imagine and create a more just, peaceful society.