Respect others, even if you don’t have the same beliefs as them

Shaheed Shihan Columnist

 

 I attended Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s commemoration event this past Monday, and I was nicely surprised for two reasons. First, I was surprised because of the size of the turnout. Second, even though most of the students attended for hopes of extra credit in various courses, the fact that some of the students actually got engaged in meaningful discussion, and spoke up, was encouraging. President Chicoine’s attendance at the event was definitely the cherry on top of the evening. 

The dialogue at the event provided me with a more vivid perspective on Dr. King’s life, his ideals, and what he stood for as a man, a father and a leader. One of the recurring talking points in the event was based on a quote made by Dr. King, “It becomes a tragic period in our nation when we equate dissent with disloyalty.” 

This insight brought about personal stories that a couple people in the audience shared. One person spoke about her disapproval of the conflict between the United States troops deployed in Afghanistan, and Iraq, and how her family feels as if she has been disloyal to the country and to its troops for not supporting them. Another attendee pointed out that America; the so-called “land of the free” has more prisoners than any other country in the world. These incidents aren’t just isolated ones; it is evident in every day, personal life, on almost every platform. 

I have personally lost friends in my life because I disagreed with them on their stance regarding certain issues such as abortion or gay marriage. It is difficult to discover a person’s true character, when their basic beliefs are on the opposite end of the spectrum from yours. At other times, it is quite an ordeal to find common ground with people who treat their religious and political beliefs as the only way to think or believe. Does this mean that two people that have opposing ideas can’t be friends anymore? That we no longer have a common ground where our values and personal beliefs do not get in the way? For starters, the world isn’t big enough for everyone to pick sides. We have to learn to live together, by showing a mutual respect. 

Another important lesson that I learned from a peace and conflict studies class I was enrolled in last semester was the importance of personal storytelling. It is important to listen to parallel experiences from other people, and what it is that leads them to having beliefs different than our own. The act of telling and listening to stories from the people around us creates strong bonds, that will often bring people together because while these people feel differently than you do, they have emotions similar to ours – grief, happiness, rage. Everyone has something in common with someone else, sometimes you just have to put your differences aside to find it. 

Shaheed Shihan is majoring in mathematics. He can be reached at [email protected] jacks.sdstate.edu