A response to ‘Crowd dynamics’
In his recent Student Life column “Crowd dynamics,” Daniel Deibler claimed that the reactions of crowds to the question of a gay soldier and to Rick Perry’s stalwart defense of the death penalty at recent GOP debates were, while reprehensible, also excusable. He insisted that because of the atmosphere of debates and because the members of the crowds “got caught up in the moment,” their actions were understandable.
I would disagree; just because you happen to be part of a crowd does not mean you are no longer responsible for your own actions.
Deibler asserts that being part of a crowd absolves you of a need to think for yourself and allows you to “turn off your brain for a while and just be excited about something.” This type of thinking is not only incorrect but also dangerous. Although being part of a crowd, especially such an enthusiastic one like those at national political debates, is certainly exciting, it does not give you free reign to disrespect others or do whatever “the crowd” is doing.
Every human being has a responsibility for his or her own actions and the consequences of those actions. Excusing people from their actions solely because they are part of a crowd, as Deibler does in his article, is ridiculous.
Sure, people may be less inhibited to shout mean or cruel things while part of a crowd, but that does not mean they don’t hold, at least to some significant degree, those views. You can even take this idea a step further: Let’s assume that Deibler’s argument is correct insofar as the people who shouted disrespectful things at the recent Republican debates do not hold the views that were espoused. They still cheered for Rick Perry’s unabashed defense of the death penalty and the killing of potentially innocent people. They still booed a member of the armed forces for his sexual orientation. That is not okay. Even if there wasn’t spiteful or misguided intent behind their words, the crowd members still uttered them.
If Americans feel it is acceptable to openly shout down those whose views do not match up with their own, then we have a serious problem. When politicians, on both sides of the aisle, sit idly by while their constituents and supporters show absolutely zero respect for those they disagree with, there is something fundamentally wrong with this country and our electoral process. If we no longer respect those with whom we disagree, then there can no longer be any sort of debate or discussion about the future of our country.
When we can boo someone at a political debate solely because of his or her sexual orientation, it shows that it no longer matters what that person has to say; it only matters that they believe in something we don’t.
This fundamentally changes the nature of the debate itself. It is no longer a discussion about what is best for America; it is a battle of you versus me. We, as the American people, cannot let this happen. Democracy works in this country because everyone understands that above all of the partisan bickering, we are still all Americans. We all love this country and what it stands for. When the conversation is no longer about improving our country, something has gone terribly wrong.
We as a people need to consciously decide to not to get caught up in the crowd. As students here at Washington University, we need to think critically about our actions. We cannot let ourselves or the politicians we choose to support get away with this sort of fear-mongering and hate-spreading any longer. We need to stop fear and ignorance from capitalizing on the debate and reclaim the discussion about the future of this country.