Dr. Arthur C. Brooks #1

On Thursday, September 30, 2021, at 10:00 am, Missouri Western State University held its annual Convocational on Critical Issues event. This year, the school hosted Dr. Arthur C. Brooks, a self-described "social scientist, musician and columnist for The Atlantic." Dr. Brooks is also a Harvard professor and the former president of The American Enterprise Institute, one of the largest conservative think tanks in the world. According to his website, Dr. Brooks has delivered over 1400 speeches in 145 different cities over the past ten years. Dr. Brooks spoke on the idea of "loving your enemies" and America's gradual trend towards "a culture of contempt."

"I ask people, for example, what's the biggest threat in America today? A majority of Americans, both Democrat and Republican, will say people from the other party. That is insane. That is insane," Dr. Brooks said in his speech.

Dr. Brooks derives his "love your enemies" concept from the biblical teachings of the Book of Matthew, in which Jesus Christ tells His followers to show their enemies love and compassion and to avoid being contemptuous. According to Dr. Brooks, the greatest problem the United States faces as a nation is its citizens ignoring this teaching and dehumanizing their adversaries. 

"The level of motive attribution asymmetry between Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals in America was as high, in 2014, as it was between the Palestinians and Israelis," Dr. Brooks said, "that's a big problem, that's a big problem my friend, when you see that kind of bitterness."

Dr. Brooks also spoke about his trip to a conservative rally in New Hampshire in which he told the present members that the right needs to avoid thinking of the left as evil and stupid, and vice versa. According to Dr. Brooks, a woman told him during his speech that he was wrong, and the opposition, in this case, the Democratic party, is stupid and evil.

"They're your neighbors, they're your fellow Americans, and they're not stupid, and they're not evil," Dr. Brooks said, "they're simply your fellow citizens who disagree with you on politics and public policy. And if your goal is to persuade them, which should be your goal...ask yourself, has anybody in history ever been insulted to the point of agreeing with you?"

According to Dr. Brooks, most Americans fall into the trap of calling their opposition evil when instead they should learn from their disagreements, growing and persuading one another, and, ultimately, loving their enemies. In Dr. Brooks' eyes, the best way to solve this is to make the conversation personal.

"My father was a college professor and my mother was an artist in Seattle [Washington] what do you think their politics were?" Dr. Brooks said, "Let me tell you something about my parents, not stupid, not evil. I have great parents...they just differ from me politically. When that lady [from New Hampshire] said that, I took it personally and that my friends is the key. If you want to start healing this nation you need to start taking it personally when somebody on your side insults in the other side."

Before his speech, Dr. Brooks met with Missouri Western student leaders at 8:00 am on Thursday to discuss viewpoints, Dr. Brooks' own "love your enemies" mantra and other issues important to Missouri Western students. Student leaders also questioned Dr. Brooks on the nature of "cancel culture" and the United States' current trajectory in regards to division and fear.

"[The United States] is in decline," Dr. Brooks said, "I'm optimistic. I believe we can bring it back, but we really have to find a way to unite ourselves."

Dr. Brooks also made heavy comments regarding the idea of "cancel culture." Cancel culture is widely regarded to be an action taken by a collective to ostracise an individual based on events from their past. In Dr. Brooks' view, cancel culture poses a massive threat to the discussion of ideas and the freedom of individuals.

"Cancel culture is a terrible, terrible ideology, and it really is poisoning our nation," Dr. Brooks said, "trying to fight injustices and such is great, but working from hatred destroys any sense of credibility you may have otherwise had."

The event ended with Dr. Brooks speaking to and eating with students at lunch. Several students gave their opinions on Dr. Brooks' speech and the ideas he presented.

Anyone interested in viewing the speech for themselves can do so at https://www.missouriwestern.edu/convocation/

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