When my social media feeds filled up with anger and frustration last week, it initially felt like seemingly any other day since the November 2016 election. The announcement of city Council’s vote to host the 2020 Republican National Convention and the GOP’s resulting acceptance of the invite already have this city gearing up for a fight.
Some are saying we’ve essentially offered hate groups an open invite to our streets. Others, like a Trump supporter from Indian Trail quoted in the Charlotte Observer, are prepared to “knock the hell out of” anti-Trump protestors.
More than 100 people argued for and against the bid during the city Council meeting before the heated argument just moved online to continue. But now, like it or not, the RNC is coming—and we still have two years before the Convention arrives. That’s a lot of time to prepare for a fight.
What if we spent the time preparing for peace?
It’s not impossible. What if we began now?
We could come together as a city to plan events based on reconciliation.
We could host dinners that are open discussions of ideas for moving forward together.
We could plan walks for peace. And host concerts for both sides of the aisle to come together.
We could do it in our shiny, new large venues—and we could do it around kitchen tables in our own homes.
We could have speakers who encourage reconciliation to thousands—and we could walk across the street to offer it to our own neighbors.
People will call me naïve. They’ll tell me that this administration isn’t like others. And they’re right. It’s not. But history and war-torn countries around the world have made it clear that meeting anger and intolerance with more of the same never works.
And to be clear, I’m not encouraging silence or appeasement. Far from it—I’m encouraging us to plan ahead for open discussions and peaceful debate, not just more days of each side trying to yell louder than the other.
I know Charlotte and I know we could do this. We’re the city of Toussaint Romain, the man who stood calmly between police and protestors in 2016. And the city of Billy Graham, a man who preached love to the entire world.
We’re about to be given an international stage. What if we became the city that showed the world how peace works?
We have two years, Charlotte. We can prepare for a fight or we can prepare for peace. How do we want to spend it?