Protest & Peace-Making

From frienemies

No matter how hard we try we can’t take down the powerful with accusations or insults. Whether we vow to #dumpTrump or #makeDonaldDrumpfagain, we are just spinning our wheels. It doesn’t matter how much we write, post, or complain about the choices we have for President. Writing, complaining, accusing, and insulting won’t change a single thing. It seems we have become the proverbial wind, not blowing out the forest fire of hatred and division, but rather making it grow stronger and more dangerous.

Don’t get me wrong — words and analysis are important. When we understand that Donald Trump says what he does based upon poll numbers, we can make sense of his statement that ‘Islam hates us’ while also being the only GOP candidate to say that he would work to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine. He is simply repeating what the majority of Republicans say they believe (thanks to my political nerd friend Taylor for this analysis).

But information doesn’t often serve to transform human hearts.

One way that people choose to actively change the narrative is to engage in acts of protest. Hundreds (perhaps thousands) of protesters successfully shut down a Trump rally in Chicago due to ‘concerns for safety’. For many, this shut down was seen as a victory. For at least one night, the divisive and vitriolic voice of Donald Trump would not be heard in Chicago. And, in many ways, the protest was a victory. I imagine even a figure such as Trump will finally pause to reflect on what kinds of violence his campaign is inciting not only in his followers and supporters, but also in those who oppose his message and his campaign.

I’m not convinced that this is the best way forward, however. There is no doubt in my mind that this shut down will increase the division between bent-out-of-shape Trump supporters (read: mostly white people) and the minorities who have been so successfully marginalized by his campaign. Protests are funny in that way. Loud voices don’t necessarily change the minds or hearts of other loud voices. They mostly build new walls in place of the walls that they hoped to break down. I’m not trying to imply that protests, or this protest in particular, are all bad. People absolutely should be protesting a figure such as Trump. But I am confident in saying that the Trump supporters present in Chicago may become even more violent, aggressive, and hateful as a result.

There is an alternate way to break down these divisive walls that have been reinforced over the past five months or so in America. We need to engage in relationships with people who are different than ourselves. The only way we can hope to understand the other side is to sit down and listen to their story. We might find out that they aren’t as crazy as we think they are. We also might find out that they really are crazy. But we can’t hope to transform any hatred or fear with love if we are unwilling to actually engage in conversations with our ‘others’.

A lot has been said by especially GOP nominees for President that has ever more increasingly marginalized the 3–5 million Muslims in America.

Fear has increased.

Hatred has increased.

Violence has increased.

Suspicion has increased.

What I hope will happen is that, more and more, people will choose to pursue peace through engaging in conversations and friendships with Muslims. Recently in Peoria Illinois between 700 and 1000 people gathered at a local mosque to start healing the wounds caused by hurtful political rhetoric. For a city of a little over 100,000 people, that’s a big deal. And it’s a different sort of protest, isn’t it? It’s a protest that says, “I don’t know what to think about all the things that people say about you, but I am willing to hear you out.”

In cities all across America, mosques are opening their doors to non-Muslims with the goal of re-shaping the narrative around Islam in America. This year on 6/7/16, SE7EN FAST provides an opportunity for non-Muslims to break fast with Muslims in their communities with the hopes of breaking down walls and beginning new conversations and relationships that will prove to be the starting point for peace.

There are myriad other ways to move past information consumption and into peacemaking through active engagement across lines of difference. I believe these acts of radical engagement are our only hope for our future. If we choose to love our neighbors, strangers, and enemies in our own communities (even Trump-sters) we will demonstrate that another way is possible.