By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
First thing's first. I thought we were all on the same page about Adolf Hitler.
If Americans can't agree on the idea that Hitler was pure evil and his ideas should never be re-shared in today's society, then the issues go deeper than once believed. But intent does matter, and DeSean Jackson most certainly didn't mean to say the Nazis were good guys. It's why Jackson deserved criticism for an egregious misstep, but also an opportunity to learn why he was wrong and grow from the experience. That's the mark of a healthy discourse.
But the dialogue is decidedly unhealthy at this point, at least on social media. And it's why it was heartening to see Julian Edelman, perhaps the NFL's most prominent Jewish player, respond to Jackson's posts with a message of "compassion, empathy, and love."
There was no call for cancellation. No accusations of irredeemable antisemitism. No back-and-forth Twitter spat in which everyone involved feels like an asshole by the end of it. That's what the cancel virus tends to do to people on Twitter; no one's immune to it. The mob bullies people into insincere hostage-cam apologies. The same thing happened to Jackson, and for that matter, Drew Brees.
But messy, abnormally bloodthirsty mob tactics do little (nothing?) to truly advance conversations. It flies in the face of one of Martin Luther King Jr.'s most famous quotes:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
And that's why it was even more heartening to see that, according to Edelman on Twitter, the two had a conversation that was no doubt uncomfortable, but also the best way for two human beings to understand the plight of each other's people.
"DeSean and I spoke for awhile last night," Edelman tweeted. "We're making plans to use our experiences to educate one another and grow together. Stay tuned."
It's about time that an ignorant, offensive, misguided, or misunderstood comment on social media was met with this kind of reaction. Hot take culture and cancel zombies shouldn't be able to rule the conversation. People shouldn't be so quick to judge each other so harshly. Criticism is possible without sending innocents to the proverbial guillotine, or making them afraid to stand up for what they believe.
Hopefully, this more empathetic, compassionate form of discourse can transcend the rotten hatred that's emerged among Americans of all races, genders, religions, ideologies, and identities. Clearly, there are truly hateful humans out there who may very well be irredeemable, who have dried up whatever opportunity they had to be understood. The problem is we're too quick to brand such an extreme label on people who simply made an honest mistake or espoused a view that, while disagreeable, isn't hateful or offensive to any rational person.
I don't think Jackson meant to spread hate. But he most certainly used the worst possible person as an example to make his point. Edelman understood the difference, and that he himself could learn more about what compelled Jackson to make his posts in the first place.
We all have a lot to learn about each other. And we won't truly make progress until we stop fighting back with hate. Respond with "compassion, empathy, and love." We'll all be healthier and better off for it.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].