People need to engage to get along

To the editor:

Elie Wiesel, survivor of Nazi concentration camps, wrote, “We must always take sides, for neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.” Our innate fighting spirit has been aroused.

Can we put all this energy to good use?

Consider how instant replay has helped referees in athletic contests. How easy it is to be mistaken because of our limited perspective! We have learned to wait for the various cameras to show the truth.

Can we learn to pause before making political judgments? Often it takes a long time for facts to emerge. While we wait, it is vital that we affirm our faith in truth. We would be wise, in all our conversations, to remember the advice of Sam Rayburn, the longest-serving Speaker of the House: “Tell the truth in the first place, and then you won’t have to remember what you said.”

I reckon we have all experienced remorse when we have jumped to a conclusion that turned out to be wrong. We who had parents who taught us how to say “I’m sorry” were very fortunate. We felt, early on, the joy that comes from reconciliation, and we were able to form relationships that last a lifetime.

In the excited state we find ourselves today, we who choose to be politically active are susceptible to hasty, mistaken judgments. As a result, we are given opportunities to say, “Oops, I goofed! Can you forgive me?” I have found that humble pie has a pleasant aftertaste.

When we allow relationships to sour to the point where we choose not to interact with people who think differently from us, we not only hurt our country, we miss an opportunity to help love overcome hate in this world. Our freedom to speak our minds gets us into trouble, but if we choose silence instead of engagement, our institutions, friendships and families are weakened.

Remember Wiesel’s words: “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Engage with people who think differently from you with good humor. Celebrate your freedom of speech. Affirm in each other a commitment to truth. If we are honest, we will learn to say “Ouch!” when offended. If we are trusting, we will learn to say “I’m sorry” when mistaken. And if we are kind, we will learn to say, “That’s OK” when asked to forgive.

Carolyn C. Peterson