Listening to each other should be top priority
I am writing today to add another perspective to the ongoing debate concerning the presence of the Confederate soldier statue on our town square. Rather than argue for or against its removal, I would like to suggest an additional viewpoint to consider. That viewpoint is this: whether the statue is removed or remains becomes a moot point if we do not address the deeply held feelings on the part of our friends and neighbors who are engaged in this debate. While I hold strong feelings about its presence and while there have been many reasoned arguments made to date, it is all for naught if we make a decision and then do nothing about what brought us to this point in our community.
Victoria is unique, and we should not let what is being done or not done in other parts of the country unduly influence our choices here. This community has demonstrated it is capable of coming together across racial and socioeconomic lines to do what is right for Victorians. I would suggest that what is fueling the anger and passion in so many of the demonstrations across the nation and here is the sense by many people that they are not being heard.
My professional training is in counseling. I have been taught and firmly believe that being heard is to a person what breathing air is to our bodies. If all the air were sucked out of the room where you are reading this, you would not be able to think about anything else until you could take a breath. And you certainly could not make a complicated decision while you were gasping for air. Being heard is like psychological air. When you are not heard, you cannot move forward, you cannot make good decisions, you cannot make any good thing happen until the person you want to hear you has demonstrated that he or she hears you and understands what you are saying.
I would assert that our first priority is to come together and listen to one another. We need to spend less time considering why our individual view is correct and unassailable. We need to spend more time considering other views, what might be right about those views, and what there is in common between those other views and our own. There is a great deal more that unites us than separates us. But if all we ever do is assert our differences, we cannot build on the common ground we share.
I will be reaching out to Victoria College and the Victoria Independent School District to form a working group that can help address these important issues on each of our campuses. We can pool our resources to bring speakers to talk to multiple audiences. I would hope that we can then engage with the city and county leaders to bring those conversations to the larger community. It is important before we become too entrenched in our own positions to take a deep breath and consider other positions. In doing so, we may be able to hear and through hearing give another person the same chance to take a breath, a breath of understanding.