On the same day just miles away, there were two well-intentioned events on seemingly opposite ends of the political spectrum. However, in many ways they were more similar than disparate.
In Berlin, more than 120 people turned out on a hot summer day for a Black Lives Matter march organized by the African American Coalition of Worcester County. The march began at Stephen Decatur Park and went to Stevenson United Methodist Church before turning around and heading back. It was a peaceful event and attended by considerably more white people than black. Marchers carried many pointed signs referencing the horrific death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officers. The sign messages included “White Silence Is Violence,” “Black Lives Matter, Listen To Them,” “Respect Existence Or Expect Resistance,” “Why Are You More Enraged By Damaged Property Than The Loss Of Black Lives,” “White Silence On The Shore Encourages Racism” and “A Good Conscience Is The Chamber Of Justice.”
Around the same time of the march a few miles away members of the Hogs for Heroes Foundation were riding their bikes, joined by the Ocean City Jeep Club, in a planned show of support along Route 50 into Ocean City for a police presentation. All along the route the show of support for the police department was evident, and funds raised from the event will benefit families of police officers who have died in the line of duty.
Though on the surface these events seem to be supporting opposite messages, we view them as more alike than different. The participants in both events are passionate, involved and caring. They want to show support for their causes in symbolic ways. Both were peaceful displays organized and attended by honorable people passionate about their beliefs.
It’s acceptable to think both events are wonderful displays, personifying some of the best of human kind, while also not wholeheartedly supporting the intentions behind them. These events themselves were laudable, but the response to how the events were covered by this media outlet online spotlight a gross lack of tolerance for opposing viewpoints by extreme members of our society. Accusations of being anti-police and pro-Black Lives Matter because more pictures were posted of the march in Berlin blistered the comments section of posts last weekend. We will continue to take the high road on those matters, but wish a bit of consideration was given by the social media fixated on flexing their muscles.
At the Berlin event, Pastor Robert Brooks said, “It’s obvious there is a racial problem, but the bigger problem is a love problem. If you love yourself and you love your neighbor as yourself, you get off his neck.” While we agree with Brooks, beyond love and respect for all kinds is the ever-present void of tolerance. It’s the extreme elements of both these groups on the national level and the reactive comments on social media to posts covering the events that are problematic.
There’s a tolerance problem. We are all unique individuals with contrasting views. We only become violently divided, however, when there’s an extreme inability to see the good in the opposing views. This unacceptance is to blame for much of our country’s divisiveness.
Tolerance and respect of viewpoints not shared can be taught one household at a time. A good place to start is agreeing to treat others how we want to be treated. If we can guarantee this, we can work through our differences in a respectful and tolerant fashion. Without these principles, we have, well, what we have currently.