Exit, pursued by a bear

Published 11:04 am Friday, August 19, 2016

“Exit, pursued by a bear.”

For anyone who has ever read or seen William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” this is one of the most iconic stage directions ever given. The image of the play’s villain, Antigonus, being chased off stage (and presumably killed) by a wild animal has influenced literature, film and poetry for centuries afterward.

In “Peter Pan,” Captain Hook exits while pursued by a crocodile, and several times in Sherlock Holmes’ adventures, the main villain is killed by a predatory animal.

As I prepare to take my leave for my junior year of college, I exit The Tidewater News not pursued by a bear, but perhaps by a few bothersome gnats.

I’ve written extensively this summer on my view on politics, religion and current events. In light of America’s current political climate, it was inevitable that my views would be met with dissent, and I applaud it.

For everyone who thoughtfully and critically engaged with my opinion, thank you. This is the true American ideal: that those who disagree with one another on issues of policy, religion and culture can, in spite of these disagreements, can live harmoniously (or at the very least cordially) alongside one another, as intended when James Madison drafted the Bill of Rights.

To the few bothersome gnats: resorting to name-calling and personal attacks does nothing to strengthen your argument, nor does it make it more likely that you will draw your opponent over to your side.

Alas, human nature is often given to be belligerent, close-minded and argumentative when given the provocation, and heaven knows that I’ve given plenty of provocation this year.

As my first journalism professor told me, “If you’re not starting up or contributing to a debate, you’re not doing your job.”

Thank you for letting me stir up a debate this summer. As I make my way back to Washington D.C., I plan to continue to boldly and unabashedly express my opinion — no matter how contrary that opinion may be — while doing my best to practice intellectual charity and to try to learn from the viewpoint of those who disagree with me.

If I have made one point clear this summer, I hope it is this: there is always something to be learned from someone who disagrees with you, be it in politics, in religion or in any other of the myriad ways that we differ with one another.

I hope that we can all be more open to courteous, dissenting discussion with our neighbors. I hope that we can all agree, or disagree as we please, and continue to do so as our Founding Fathers envisioned.

And if we should be pursued by a few bothersome gnats along the way, then we have done our job well.

Walter Francis Jr. is a student at American University and is serving as a staff writer for The Tidewater News this summer. Email him at walter.francis@tidewaternews.com.