Foreword: Finding Common Ground
By, Sam Rasoul
Thank you to Unite Virginia, LLC for all you do to promote equality and economic development in our great Commonwealth!
The recent election and this holiday season piques our interest for a number of reasons. One in particular is the blunt conversation our country is having around diversity. As the first American Muslim elected in Virginia, I see a common thread in homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate. These are all part of the same systems of discrimination and oppression.
Since the beginning of civilization, leaders have appealed to the worst in us by exploiting our fears for political gain. To be fair, we all have the vulnerability to be manipulated and so it is critical for us to stand together as humans united in embracing knowledge and diversity in all its forms. Only through opening minds to new experiences and information can we counter the very ignorance which leaves us susceptible to manipulation.
The nine black parishioners in Charleston S.C., the three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill and the 14 public employees in San Bernardino all fell victim to not only gun violence, but to perverse mindsets intent on causing harm and division. These and countless other tragedies are not merely events in isolation, but are offshoots of acidic environments. Generational poverty, polarizing politics and poor education systems create an aura which feeds our primal survival instincts, preventing many of us from considering the impact of our actions on society as a whole.
Through the good work of Unite Virginia, LLC, we find people from all walks of life supporting each other’s efforts and realizing these are our common struggles. This holiday season and into the New Year, what can we do to challenge the hatred we experience in our daily lives? The most effective strategy for combating ignorance and hate can, at times, seem counterintuitive.
“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
Growing a more inclusive coalition does not happen through louder yelling, more protests and an endless stream of propaganda; rather, the first step in gaining the attention of perceived adversaries is finding common ground.
Family, career, safety and life purpose are some of the many issues that all humans inherently care deeply about. Approaching all engagements filled with as much love and compassion as possible is the most successful way to build bridges. Instead of facing our emotionally-charged differences head-on, fostering a productive relationship helps create opportunities for dialogue in the future. If Jesus, Ghandi and MLK Jr. all espoused this philosophy, there must be something to it!
This holiday season is the perfect time to exercise our patience and temperament. Regardless of where we come from, what we look like, what we believe in or who we love, we are all sisters and brothers of America and humanity. I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season and a joyous New Year!
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from the 11th District (Roanoke)