Random thoughts from an animal-loving French prof / mom of three on things she finds beautiful, funny, sad, or strange.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Wait, WHAT?! I agree with Glenn Beck?!

It was early one fall semester, a few years ago. My elementary French class and I were still getting to know each other when the ballplayer in the front row piped up with something straight out of Glenn Beck. My reaction was swift, and to me, predictable.

"I prefer to think for myself." 

"He just asks questions," came the reply, faintly tinged with what I perceived as aggression.

"Great," I thought. "One of those. Let's just get through this semester. It's not like I'll ever see him again."

I was wrong, and thankfully so. The student went on to minor in French and remains one of the best and brightest I have ever had. Mind you, there were plenty of things about which we never could agree, but we kept talking and learning from each other all the same. Those conversations became one of the highlights of my week, and even now remind me why I became a professor. Idealistic and cliched as it may sound, I want to open minds, including especially my own.

Time passed. Seasons changed. My opinion of Glenn Beck, however, did not. That is, until the other day, when in the New York Times I read his Op-Ed, Empathy for Black Lives Matter. Here's the part that got me:

After the massacre, I invited several Black Lives Matter believers on my show. I got to know them as people — on and off air — and invited them back again. These individuals are decent, hardworking, patriotic Americans. We don’t agree on everything, certainly not on politics; but are we not more than politics? I refuse to define each of them based on the worst among them. No movement is monolithic. The individuals I met that day are not “Black Lives Matter”; they are black Americans who feel disenfranchised and aggrieved; they are believers; they are my neighbors and my fellow citizens.
We need to listen to one another, as human beings, and try to understand one another’s pain. Empathy is not acknowledging or conceding that the pain and anger others feel is justified. Empathy is acknowledging someone else’s pain and anger while feeling for them as human beings — even, and maybe especially, when we don’t necessarily agree or understand them.
I haven't followed the story much since, but I can easily imagine Beck was excoriated on all sides. In his camp because our heroes are supposed to be unchanging monoliths; in camps closer to my own, because, well, he's Glenn Beck. Never mind what he actually said, right? He's just another one of them. Others near my camp may have read, even liked it, only to dismiss it as too little, too late. 

Now that last part, I get. I really do. I almost went there myself. After all, how many times have I felt that way? How many times have I caused others to feel that way about me? 


But...this. "Too little, too late" implies there is no chance for growth or change. There are no second chances, no mercy, no grace. And that, I cannot accept. It goes against everything I believe as a Christian, parent, teacher, friend. As humans are we not gifted with the ability to transcend our limitations, especially those that are self-imposed?

Am I the newest member of the Glenn Beck fan club? Nope. I don't even agree with everything he wrote here. But I have to admire his bravery in extending a hand, knowing full well that many would just as soon slap or even sever it, anything but risk a stranger's touch.

Surely each of us, in our own little corners of the world, can do the same. 

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