2017 is finally upon us, and what better way to start things off than to make New Year’s resolutions you’ve probably already forgotten about?
Okay, I kid. 2017 stands to be the roughest year thus far for many UCLA students, and not just because the next winter break is another 11 months away. After all, rainy weather wasn’t the only dinner table discussion topic over break for many students.
Between the United Nation’s resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, the ever-surprising cabinet picks by the president-elect and the terror attacks media outlets never ceased to pore over, the tumultuous end of 2016 gave way to an even more tumultuous 2017. The geopolitical scene has not become any friendlier, and it’s only a matter of time before students stop rejoicing in the new year and start bickering over the same issues they put aside for the past four weeks.
Like deja vu, the student body will once again break out into ideological camps – pro-Israel versus pro-Palestine, pro-Trump versus anti-Trump, Black Lives Matter versus All Lives Matter – and the only thing that will have changed from 2016 will be the units digit. The same climate that allowed people like David Horowitz and white supremacists to cause mayhem will once again make its way onto campus.
It’s high time this stops. 2017 needs to be the year we make progress in reconciling, not perpetuating, our differences.
Students need to turn over a new leaf and resolve to breach the ideological differences plaguing the campus. Instead of replaying last year’s conflicts, we need to attempt consensus. Such diplomacy can be difficult even for the well-intended, but we can certainly take baby steps, be that through engaging in more genuine methods of discourse, such as structured debates, or even just refraining from further siloing ourselves into our own ideological caves.
It was only three months back when students split apart over the Bruin Republican’s “An Illegal Immigrant Killed My Child” event. When the Bruin Republicans brought in Sabine Durden, a mother who lost her child to a car accident involving an undocumented immigrant, undocumented Bruins wouldn’t be outdone and held their own event to counter Durden’s entry. Both groups claimed their events were designed as starting points for discussion, but unless giving each other the cold shoulder is considered progress, the only “discussion” that took place was probably about which event to attend. Neither group sought to really further the discussion on any level, and all that resulted was an even more cacophonous Bruin Walk.
However, it’s not just undocumented immigrants. Bruins for Israel and Students for Justice in Palestine have been waging a silent war against each other, and it seems their way of resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict has been to flood the Daily Bruin Opinion page with submissions – not that we don’t mind the additional content. Certainly, students are entitled to choose sides on such a divisive ideological spectrum, but it should be obvious that kitty fighting on a newspaper page doesn’t further the discussion any bit – the UN has been bickering for the past 50 years, and where has that gotten it?
Instead of another year of fruitlessly squabbling, students need to make a resolution to work toward addressing the ideological divides that face campus. And there are steps we all can take. Instead of calling in controversial speakers that we know won’t do anything but fuel the fire and spark protests – such as Milo Yiannopoulos – we should engage in benefiting discussion, which can be as straightforward as putting together an hour-long, moderated panel between those who want to invite the speaker and those who want to protest that invitation.
Even students who don’t take sides in this ideological drama can do something as simple as not picking fights with Bruin Walk hecklers. Sure, the man telling non-Christians they’re destined for damnation is causing a ruckus, but you’re mistaken to think you’re accomplishing anything if you decide to blow out his eardrums or vandalize his equipment. And if hecklers don’t actually intend to reach a consensus on their respective arguments, leave them be because they’re just wasting your time.
Of course, ideological differences cannot all be resolved overnight, and it’s naive to think students will hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” just because they healthily debate with each other or refrain from burning Trump mannequins. However, it’s equally mistaken to think reigniting conflicts from years past will solve anything. Solutions, not problems, bring about progress, and if we’re to be the leaders of the future, we need to do better than just perpetuate the arguments of before.
Debates and structured argumentation are a starting point. Advocating for a viewpoint with the intent to reach a consensus is a starting point. But yelling your ideologies from the top of your lungs with no intent to budge isn’t.
2017 presents us with a chance to start afresh and take steps, however small, toward progress. And if we’re to capitalize on that opportunity, the least we can do is make sure there isn’t an ideological firefight on Bruin Walk during midterm season.