Americans must learn to respect people, not opinions

How we can escape the echo chamber of thought we’ve created

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Americans must learn to respect people, not opinions

Written By Beth Turnbull, Co-Opinions Editor

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I have a lot of opinions. Everyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about many things, especially politics. There are many things I don’t understand (mostly the economy), but I can support my arguments when necessary.

Americans are passionate people. We’ve seen a lot of debates about the way our country should be run over the past few years, but the way in which we debate these things has changed.

What has troubled me the most since the 2016 election is the way in which we have stopped communicating with each other.

It’s become shockingly common to see posts on Facebook that say “unfriend me if you voted for Donald Trump” or “I’m deleting anyone who doesn’t believe in gun control.” Even I am guilty of this, I had one of my best friends muted on Twitter for two months because I couldn’t stand her tweets comparing President Bill Clinton’s actions to then-nominee Trump’s. It has gone beyond an agreement to disagree, we have placed opinions on a pedestal.

This sounds extremely petty, and it is, but it highlights a larger problem. We don’t listen to opinions that don’t match our own, and we are unwilling to defend the opinions we already hold. This is becoming very dangerous for our country and our national discourse.

Why are we so content with hearing our own opinions shouted back at us in the echo chamber we’ve created?

The simple answer is that it’s easier when you don’t have to defend what you believe in. If you feel justified, hey, you probably are. We are just shouting across the aisle at people we disagree with, they are shouting back at us and no one is benefiting.

So how do we change? By realizing that opinions don’t deserve respect, people do. Opinions should be challenged and discussed. Opinions should be flexible and fluid when new information presents itself. But that’s not what’s happening in our national conversation. We are staying comfortable by only presenting our ideas to the people who already agree with them. We cannot sit by and let false opinions continue to be praised.

We should always be searching for ways in which we can improve our understanding of things, to form better, clearer opinions. Pride will try to get in the way. We can’t let it.

I’ll admit, it’s not fun to argue with a friend or family member about something you disagree on. No one enjoys having their opinions challenged and their logic called out. But it’s necessary and valuable.

The holidays are here, and whether we like it or not, this is the perfect time for discussion with the people we love, keeping in mind that good discussions don’t have to be combative.

The world we live in as Point Park students is different than the world our parents and grandparents grew up in.

Point Park is a liberal arts college in the middle of a city, many of us likely have a different perspectives on things like LGBT rights because of the environment we exist in. The discussion has changed a lot in the past five to 10 years.

We need to be mindful of why people feel the way they do, but we also need to realize that it is an explanation, not an excuse, and to respectfully oppose them when their arguments don’t hold up.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

As Americans, we should be receptive to the concerns of our fellow citizens and welcome friendly argument. If we can’t talk to each other anymore, it’s all downhill from here.

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