Jul 14, 2020
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Tribune News Service

Response to Dr. Jaime Rodríguez-Matos’ lecture

Two weeks ago, Dr. Jaime Rodríguez-Matos gave a lecture at Fresno State that was covered by a Collegian reporter.

He read and analyzed Latino political poetry in both English and Spanish, but focused mainly on the work of Juan Felipe Herrera.

Herrera was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2015 to 2017, spanning two very different political administrations.

During Rodríguez-Matos’ lecture some implications had arisen. He explained that when someone opposes a political ideal, it is human nature to gather a large group of people together under the banner of shared ideals and publicly proclaim that opposition.

Rodríguez-Matos suggested that these types of social movements aren’t working. In fact, it advances the unwanted cause further, he said. He compared this empty opposition to a master and slave cycle, where a slave may become free, but a master will always be a master and will find another to enslave.

Americans from both sides of the political spectrum hold rallies, year after year, in cities across the nation. But to what end? Will everyone continue to be enslaved to the opposing side in a political dichotomy?

Rodríguez-Matos prefaced this by saying that he gave a speech opposing President Donald Trump in Mexico the day he was sworn into office in 2017.

Thinking about how popular the #metoo movement marches and Planned Parenthood protests have been these past few years, it’s clear to see where the public stands in who they believe in.

Does Rodríguez-Matos have a point? Are these group consensus efforts simply aiding a repetitive cycle that is doomed to continue forever?

Rodríguez-Matos suggested that the poetry Juan Felipe Herrera writes is in some ways breaking this cycle by simply questioning these common practices. But Herrera’s poetry is not active enough. There has to be a middle ground.

The solution should be much quieter than groups picketing or public shaming. The solution should instead bring about change on a more individual basis.

In the book “Blue Like Jazz,” a collection of short stories, author Donald Miller expresses his “nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality.”

Miller writes about a friend he calls “Andrew the Protester.” Andrew is an example of someone who puts his beliefs to work.

“Andrew says it is not enough to be politically active,” Miller writes. “He says legislation will never save the world. On Saturday mornings Andrew feeds the homeless. He sets up a makeshift kitchen on a sidewalk and makes breakfast for people who live on the street … Andrew does not believe in empty passion.”

Therein lies the issue with group consensus — empty passion. This is a generation of slacktivists who like, share and retweet their beliefs on social media, but it all ends there.

It’s not enough to just raise awareness or get loud. It’s not enough to gather together and shout about change — that coming from a journalist who fully believes in freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It’s not enough to just believe in something.

The age-old adage “actions speak louder than words” applies to all;f here and now.

“What I believe is not what I say I believe,” Miller writes. “What I believe is what I do.”

Lend a compassionate ear to someone who has been sexually abused rather than slap a hashtag at the end of your selfie. Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center instead of holding signs with graphic images displayed outside of businesses.

Feed the homeless. Seek out and comfort the hurting. Use your gifts, talents and abilities to follow through with your own beliefs.

Whatever side of the spectrum you fall on, don’t be afraid to break out of the groupthink mentality and actually do something for a change.

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