This reminds me of a quote I find extremely interesting: “If you don’t show up to debate, you lose.” I sat with it for a while. I shared it with some people. I cited it in class discussions. Then I looked it up and found out that it was attributed to Milo Yiannopoulos. For those of you who don’t know, Yiannopoulos is an alt-right, anti-feminist provocateur who ranks pretty high on the list of people I strongly dislike.
I felt betrayed by this quote, but I also think it proves an interesting point. Accepting things for what they are, not asking questions, and keeping one’s thoughts to oneself can lead to ignorance — the sort of ignorance that entails parroting off a quote that sounds interesting without realizing that the person who said it is prejudiced and inflammatory.
That’s why it’s important to ask questions and participate in debates. Even if you lose a battle, there’s something to be said for defending and fighting for your opinions. You might learn something.
I know many people who fail to discuss their ideas. They refuse to talk about their political views because they know they’re more conservative than I am. When I probe them on issues like immigration or access to affordable healthcare, they shut down.
I tend to discuss my views with a lot of passion. It takes a lot for me to resist sighing, shaking my head, and shouting during a heated argument.
Still, I think I bring up good points. I back up what I say with research, and I never make ad hominem attacks. I think that when I discuss politics with people (particularly those on the right) I give them a new perspective. Sometimes, I even change their mind.
Other times, debates can be hurtful. They can be hard. One can feel overwhelmed and outnumbered. There are also times when issues can be extremely difficult to discuss. They hit far too close to home and give flashbacks to traumatic memories.
Sometimes people call names and laugh or yell during debates. Still, even these petty acts serve a purpose for personal growth. They illustrate how one’s beliefs might make others feel, and thus give them reason to reconsider their views.
Actively engaging in discussion with people of opposing views requires a great deal of emotional labor, especially when the issue affects you personally. Sometimes, it’s necessary to disengage and head home to fight another day. It’s perfectly acceptable to avoid sensitive topics if talking about them hurts you. But, when political views don’t trigger trauma or exacerbate exhaustion, it’s the responsibility of individuals to discuss them.
Failure to do so creates a sort of partisan deadlock where the right and the left are both trapped in the chokehold of the other side, unable to communicate with each other.
When we accept what we hear at face value, whether it be from our parents or from the news or even from the mouth of our president, we isolate ourselves. We inhibit our ability to interact with others, and we continue on a path that is either wildly isolated, shockingly incorrect, or full of intellectual homogeny.
There are two ways to go about remedying this. One can expose themselves to differing viewpoints and broaden their perspectives on their own, which avoid the negative drawbacks of conflict. However, a mutually beneficial interaction results when two people engage with one another. The viewpoints and perspectives are live, and the emotional reactions are instantaneous and visible. This is the way humans are better able to work together, by explaining themselves, asking questions, and reacting honestly.
You can believe whatever you want. It’s your right to do so. Yet, just as it is your fundamental right to believe what you want, it is your fundamental responsibility to justify your beliefs and discuss them with others.
Eamon Morris PZ ’22 is from Orange, CA. He drinks too much coffee and should probably stop.