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Healing the divide through listening and understanding.
Making A Difference After The Tragedy In Charlottesville

Making a Difference After the Tragedy in Charlottesville

By Marilyn Utz

In the wake of the tragedy last week in Charlottesville, Virginia many of us were stunned at the hatred and violence that took 3 lives and injured many others. And now we are left wondering, how do we move forward, away from violence, back to a respectful and caring America?In the wake of the tragedy last week in Charlottesville, Virginia many of us were stunned at the hatred and violence that took 3 lives and injured many others. And now we are left wondering, how do we move forward, away from violence, back to a respectful and caring America?

I’d like to share some of the desires of Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, the young woman run down by a car which purposefully ran into a group of counterprotestors.

Susan Bro’s Request – Have those difficult conversations.

  • At her daughter’s funeral Ms. Bro remarked that many people asked what they could do to help. Here are some of her responses:
    • “Let’s find that spark of conviction, let’s find in ourselves that action. Let’s spread this. Let’s have the uncomfortable dialogue. It isn’t easy sitting down and saying, “well, why are you upset?” It isn’t easy sitting down and saying, “Yeah, well, I think this way and I don’t agree with you, but I’m gonna respectfully listen to what you have to say.”
    • “The truth is we are gonna have our differences. We are going to be angry with each other. But let’s channel that anger not into hate, not into violence, not into fear, but let’s channel that difference into righteous action. Later on, she continues, “Right now, there are people who are here willing to listen to one another and talk to one another. Last night in New England they had a peaceful rally in Heather’s name to have some difficult dialogs.”

At United and Together, we are trying to help people find a way to listen to each other with respect and compassion, especially when they don’t agree.

Here are a few tips from Sally Kohn who gave a TED Talk on Emotional Correctness and Arthur Brooks who asked the Dalai Lama about the Remedy for Contempt.

  • Sally Kohn reminds us of the importance of emotional correctness:
    • What matters more than political correctness is emotional correctness.
    • Emotional correctness is the tone, the feeling, HOW we say what we say. The respect and compassion we show one another.
    • We need to connect with each other as people. What if we try  listening to each other? People listen because of HOW you say something .”Emotional correctness will help us build connections with each other, and that’s how we start the conversations that really lead to change.”
  • Arthur Brooks shared the remedy for Contempt
    • Mr. Brooks asked the Dalai Lama, “Your holiness what do I do when I feel contempt?” And he said, “practice warm heartedness.”
    • If we do this it will be world changing. Every single one of us is going to have an opportunity on social media or in person to answer somebody’s contempt. Are you going to do the right thing? And make the world a little bit better and show your strength, and make your enemies your friends? Or are you going to make the problem worse?

While I know these conversations can seem daunting and even overwhelming, like anything, with practice they will get easier. We all have the ability to listen, and as Sally Kohn reminds us, often what people hear is HOW we say something. Which echoes, Arthur Brook’s advice to meet any contempt with warm heartedness. We have all felt the blessing of kindness shown to us, especially when someone has shown us kindness when we may not have deserved it. Like Ms. Bro is asking us to, we can make a difference with both our willingness to listen and our kindness.

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