Yesterday, the top story on all the social media trends was the story of Harvard in-accepting Parkland shooting survivor Kyle Kashuv. The reason? The university was made aware of texts from Kyle’s days as a 16-year-old (not all that long ago), some of which contained racist terms and other offensive material.
Kashuv told the story on social media, and it gained traction. Never once did he, in my view, play the sympathy card, or the victim card. Instead, he basically says “I’m not going to Harvard. This is why. I tried working it out with them, but it didn’t happen.”
Now, Kashuv is a pro-gun advocate who took to the national stage along with, though opposite from, many of his classmates. He saw the Parkland shooting as a failure of safety measures that the United States government could act on, but his solutions did not involve restrictions on the Second Amendment. His views were endorsed by the likes of Ben Shapiro and other big names on the right while the left savaged him.
So, naturally, when yesterday’s story erupted, the two sides strapped on their jackboots and went to their bunkers to arm up.
There are hundreds of thought pieces written about the issue specifics already. They detail who their authors believe was in the right and who was in the wrong. You can’t open up Twitter right now without seeing some other person commenting on it for the 150th time. I’m not here to talk about the specifics, though.
I have a worry about stories like the and the fallout from our natural reactions.
I mentioned a very specific visual a minute ago: Strapping on the jackboots and heading to the bunkers. You can see a bunch of angry leftists muttering about Kashuv being a racist just like the rest of the GOP and you can see angry right-wingers muttering about how they’ll win this war because the Democrats don’t even believe in guns. It’s almost like a weird World War I movie, except set on Twitter, which thank God Almighty we didn’t have for either world war.
From the bunkers, each side shouts at each other. Someone will say something they consider witty, and a hundred heads standing around them will nod in agreement. Across the battlefield, the other side does the same thing. Insult and nods of approval. The problem is that neither side heard the other and, more importantly, neither side will try to understand the other.
Kashuv said some bad things. They are not defensible things. The kid screwed up in the language he used. Do I think he needs to be un-accepted from Harvard for it? Of course not. But, you have to acknowledge that it was bad. He owned up to it, but that doesn’t erase what he did.
However, it’s not healthy for us to continue trying to destroy the lives of people we don’t agree with. Kashuv made a mistake, but it’s not a mistake worth destroying someone’s chance at a prestigious education for. What he did was stupid, showed a lack of judgment, and totally accepted within his cultural circles. That doesn’t make it right, but there is social context that is missing.
But no one wants to come together and hash this out. We must sit in our respective bunkers and hurl rhetorical bombs at each other without stopping to ask why the hell we’re doing that instead of talking.
This is a mistake, and it’s growing more and more common as the years go by. We’re losing the ability to speak to each other, instead focusing on our beliefs and ideas instead of trying to understand someone else’s. When we’re not focusing on our beliefs and ideas, though, we are coming to a snap judgment on someone else’s based on loosely-affiliated data about that person’s beliefs and ideas.
Kids make mistakes, and this is a good one to learn a lesson from. But, we can’t expect the future Kyle Kashuvs to take lesson as well as this one did, and we can’t expect our society to survive if we don’t work toward understanding.