I want to mention an event happening next week, as well as some things all of us can think about and learn from it.
The eighth annual No Name-Calling Week is next week, January 24-28. No Name-Calling Week is organized by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, but the event is about name calling in general, not just anti-gay, anti-lesbian, anti-bisexual or anti-transgender name-calling.
Locally, the Kitsap Safe Schools Network supports local students and gay straight alliances (GSAs) in their efforts to have related events at their schools. The local Q-Center is also doing some planning for the week.
From the GLSEN website: “No Name-Calling Week is an annual week of educational activities aimed at ending name-calling of all kinds and providing schools with the tools and inspiration to launch an on-going dialogue about ways to eliminate bullying in their communities.”
I applaud the students that are courageously taking a stand and organizing around this issue because all students deserve a school environment where it is safe and they can learn. We all know that there is more to bullying than just name calling, but name-calling is certainly an important part to address.
As I look at some of the online comments to articles and blogs on the Kitsap Sun and other news web pages, I wonder if maybe some of us adults can learn a thing or two from these youth. When we resort to calling each other names, on either side of an issue, we block any real dialog. There are topics that are more divisive than others, but we need to be able to have considerate conversations about all those topics. I understand that some of the name-calling has anger and resentment behind it, and I understand sometimes the disrespectful comments are preceded by years of frustration. However, I also think the online comments dissolve into name calling at least in part because folks feel anonymous, and therefore not really accountable, for what they are saying. Although there is plenty of name-calling in person too.
It is not helpful to either side of an issue to make comments that are mean spirited. One purpose of the comments is to enable some discussion and to allow alternate voices to be heard. Some of the discussions via the comments have been valuable, with respectful points made on both sides, but those discussions are often in the minority when the issue is controversial. Everyone does not have to agree on an issue for the discussion to be genuine; they just have to agree to have a sincere dialog.
Maybe during No Name Calling Week, and even beyond, we can all think about how respectful our comments are before we post them.