TO THE EDITOR:
Many agree we need a dialogue about issues that divide society; I think this requires us to consider the “intent” of those who disagree about race, politics and religion. Comedian Trevor Noah noted that whatever one thinks about the debates of the last week, President Trump in his initial call to a military widow did not intend to cause her emotional distress—even though that was the result. Noah then referred to Colin Kaepernick, whose actions did not intend to insult patriotic Americans. What does this teach us?
Kneeling NFL players and their supporters intended to spark a discussion about racial inequities in America. Those who are offended by protests during the national anthem are urged to consider what the protests are “really about”. But no one owns how other people react, and the fact is that protesting during the anthem does offend many people.
The objections of this group in turn offend the protestors—even if there is no intent to endorse white supremacy or racism.
Thus we find ourselves in a vicious circle, assuming the worst, sure that because others have offended us, they intended to do so. I’m not denying that some people do intend to offend others; and even having the best intentions can still leave one mistaken. I do say we need to start with the assumption that people on the “other side” start with the sincere intent to speak their truth; and we should listen even if we’re sure they’re wrong.