Student body must combat culture of contempt as 2020 approaches

Marcus Maldonado, Contributing Writer

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Hanson Dai | Art Director

Marcus Maldonado is the co-founder and executive director of the Wave Center for Policy and Enterprise, a student-led thinktank devoted to uniting community, business and policy leaders around innovative solutions to society’s biggest problems. He is also the political council chair for the Undergraduate Student Government.

As the nation slouches toward the 2020 presidential election, Tulane students are uniquely positioned to produce innovative and productive solutions to the problems facing the nation and our city of New Orleans.

Whether the issue that motivates you is immigration, criminal justice or climate catastrophe, the past few weeks have presented the crystal-clear case for unity and engagement among the student body. These issues are bigger than any one person can solve and call for the embrace of the university’s motto: “Not for oneself, but for one’s own.” 

To put one’s self aside to promote the needs of the community requires everyone — Republicans and Democrats — to be willing to work with those they disagree with. Within just the first few weeks of some students’ Tulane experience, the New Orleans community has faced firsthand the repercussions and results of the failures of our local and national leaders to do so.

From the disheartening deportation of an innocent man riddled with cancer to the Global Climate Strike, the pages of local and national newspapers are riddled with dire problems in need of serious solutions. 

Self sacrifice for the sake of the New Orleans community and the nation at large calls for our student body to put aside the divisive and destructive rhetoric that currently plagues American politics. 

According to a Pew Research study conducted this year, only 58% of Americans believe that others can have civil discourse with citizens who hold differing opinions. Without constructive discourse many of the problems facing society will continue to go unsolved, and those on the ground will continue to be forced to deal with the repercussions.  

This distrust of the other side is not a Republican or Democratic phenomenon. It is one that crosses party lines and inhibits both sides from solving the problems necessary to push society forward.  

A study released in January of this year found that more than 40% of Republicans and more than 40% of Democrats view the other side as “downright evil.” 

How can one set forward to solve the nation’s broken immigration system or Louisiana’s reformed yet still severely flawed criminal justice system while holding the view that those with which you must work are evil?

The magnitude of the problems facing New Orleans and the nation requires everyone working to solve them. From the scale of the injustices present within the current American system of criminal justice to the monumental challenge of conquering climate change, these problems facing our generation require unification over division.   

No matter one’s political persuasion, every engaged citizen is engaged because they truly wish to see society in a better position tomorrow than it is today. All Americans wish to see a nation where everyone is wealthier, healthier and better off. 

The disagreements, of course, exist in how to pursue those outcomes.  As many students prepare to cast their first ever vote for president in 2020, that is the crucial fact undergirding our democracy.   

Tulane students must decide whether they are willing and able to face the challenge of unification and combat the culture of contempt.  Working with those with whom you disagree can be difficult while often seeming counterintuitive. The discomfort one faces when doing so, however, is surely worth the productive solutions that generated by civil discourse.  

If we are to solve the problems facing New Orleans, the state of Louisiana and the nation, Tulane students need to stand together as 2020 approaches.