Loving enough to be critical

Although it’s the start of a new semester, final exams still haunt my memory.  As I stayed up late furiously grading tests, I was often struck by how much easier my life would be if I just gave everyone A’s.  It would save me time, and I cannot imagine any students would have complained.  So what kept me from doing just that?  As much as free A’s might seem like a student’s dream, in the end most realize (I hope) that the only way they will grow is if their mistakes are pointed out.

For any teacher, taking the time to track down a student’s mistakes is an act of love, not of hate.  This principle extends to other relationships as well.  If a friend is engaging in self-destructive behavior, which is the greater act of love – pretending the problem does not exist, or confronting him or her about it?

December’s Circuit contained an opinion column entitled “Our rights, the flag, and the National Anthem” that followed the trend of many current political pieces in attempting to paint complicated issues in simplistic blacks and whites.  Its goal was to delegitimize protests by athletes who refuse to stand during the National Anthem by asserting that either you stand, or you are undermining the principles of our nation.  Either you stand, or you hate police officers.  Either you stand, or you are not a true American.  Interestingly, although this article expressed many passionate opinions about the form of the protest, what was actually being protested was almost completely overlooked.

I can relate to this sentiment.  As a white person, I have always had the privilege of being able to ignore racial issues whenever I want because they don’t directly affect me.  Then in 2012 my African-American son was born, and I lost a bit of that privilege.  Suddenly news stories about the racial problems of our country became very personal.

Overlooking the faults of our great nation is certainly the easy thing to do, and it may even seem like the patriotic thing to do, but in the end, growth can only come with honest self-examination.  This temptation can be especially strong when the problems seem to only affect others.  I am fortunate that my son has given me the opportunity to gain some small bit of a new perspective on the world.  My hope for myself is that I can continue to have such insights so that I may better comfort those who mourn.  My hope is that I may always be looking for excuses to help rather than excuses to disregard those who need my help.

Dr. Eric Fox-Linton is a professor at Benedictine and can be reached via phone at 913-360-7915.