Monday, February 7, 2011

Lisa Ling Raising a Moral Voice: Nat Schils '12

This past Tuesday Lisa Ling, an internationally renowned journalist, came to Tufts for the Merrin Distinguished Lecture which is presented annually by Tufts Hillel. Even though I had heard that Lisa Ling had covered fascinating stories around the world, gaining access to previously closed off locations and speaking about ignored or taboo topics, I was blown away by the breadth of her experience. She spoke about her time in Afghanistan, where she saw boys as young as fourteen wielding guns like trained military men. She met with American couples traveling to China to adopt baby girls. She spent time at a maximum-security penitentiary, traveled in North Korea, and explored the disturbing truths of prostitution in the United States.

Apart from her stories, however, what struck me most during her speech was when she talked about the dangers of “American style glasses” through which we often dilute complex issues into black-and-white, wrong vs. right, simplicity. Lisa Ling recounted numerous experiences when her oversimplification of a complex issue was blown apart when she started investigating a story at the ground level, interacting with community members and those who had first-hand knowledge and experience with the issues. One example she used was of a policy in Australia that allows women with children under the age of five to bring their children with them if they are jailed. While this policy may seem akin to child abuse and endangerment at first, Lisa Ling came to see another side of the story through her investigative work. She shared statistics about the increased risk that children with one or more incarcerated parent will themselves end up in jail, as well as the decreased incidents of violence at jails when children are present. While many in the audience may still not have agreed with this policy, it definitely brought to light the importance of complete knowledge before making hasty, and potentially inaccurate, assumptions about the lives and decisions of other people.

In continuation with this theme of knowledge before judgment, Lisa Ling also stressed the importance and power of listening. While many people are surprised by Lisa Ling’s ability to infiltrate seemingly closed-off areas, she attributes her success to her commitment to listening carefully and to spending time with people in order to gain their confidence and trust. Rather than promoting monetary action and donations to support a cause, Lisa Ling encouraged audience members to bring global stories to light and to spread awareness about different conflicts that exist both in our own backyards and around the world. By spreading awareness, we can decrease our dependence on “American style glasses” as we begin to think differently about complex issues like environmental justice, female empowerment, and the rights of children. Perhaps it is a human instinct to simplify what the world presents us, especially in today’s increasingly technology-dependent world in which we are constantly bombarded by information and images. I hope that we can all remember Lisa Ling’s words and the importance of being open as we continue to explore global and domestic stories in Tufts classrooms and in the wider world.

No comments:

Post a Comment