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viewpoint

An open response to an open response to a letter

| Tuesday, April 20, 2021

I want to thank you for having read my column and having written such a thoughtful response. I am flattered you felt it deserved engagement. Since you clearly put so much consideration into your letter, I thought it only fair I respond. Firstly, I suppose I could have been clearer that I do not mean to criticize all Democrats, but merely that my article speaks about an issue within the left-leaning political sphere. I, perhaps wrongly, assumed it would not be interpreted as a criticism to all Democrats — I am, after all, a registered Democrat myself.

As for the final sentence, I wrote the article weeks ago and sent it into BridgeND’s Observer point person well before last Sunday’s story broke. Even still, it would have been best to avoid using the language I did because it distracted so many people from my message. I meant to evoke the image of thought police, who silence all dissent, but I now regret my word choice. You are right that it was tone-deaf. While it was written weeks before the latest incident, we are never too far away from an incident like it. I could and should have phrased the last sentence differently.

With regards to misrepresenting BridgeND, as the former president of the club, I can say my column — while in no way officially sponsored by the club — aims to support what Bridge stands for. The column criticized a culture of shaming that turns its nose at discussion, choosing instead to take to social media to prove to their echo chamber the righteousness of their indignation. Unlike all of you, who took the time to write out a considerate and much appreciated response, the many on Twitter who personally attacked my character and cursed at me seem to have proven the validity of my point.

We are better when we talk to one another, as you have chosen to do. We are better when opinions many people hold are put out in the open so they can join the marketplace of ideas and be rejected or accepted, not because of mob mentality, but because of careful consideration of their merits. We are better when we humanize the other side. It’s the Twitter-like culture that I find disturbing. In fact, when I reached out to my harshest Twitter critic offering to get coffee, she informed me my poor word choice made me too racially violent to be worth speaking to and insinuated that conversation could only make her a worse person for having engaged with me at all. BridgeND is about the messy work of engaging with people we disagree with, so that we can recognize the common dignity of even our greatest political adversaries.

I came across this quote recently by theologian Hans Kung and I feel it represents my relationship to many (though not all) liberal causes well: “Criticism without loyalty is destructive, loyalty without criticism is totalitarian. If I criticize more than others, it is a sign of profound adhesion.” For every decision I make, I try to consider how it impacts the world around me. I don’t say this looking for moral validation, only a recognition that I want the world to be better as badly as you do. It’s just that I feel solidarity is best demonstrated through personal action and genuine conversation, not social media posts or predetermined judgments of other people. I define myself primarily not by a political label, but as a Christian, and I try to aim all my efforts towards becoming a better one. To me that means seeing the dignity in the people it is easiest for me to hate, and it is easiest to hate those who don’t see the world the way I do — I dare say the way we do. For that reason, I choose to criticize the loud minority of our shared political party who show no mercy to those who disagree — mercy, that thing we ought to give most generously to those who deserve it least.

Sophia Sheehy

fall graduate, class of 2021

April 18

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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