On Civil Discourse



If you have paid attention to anything going on within the world and even the school recently, you would agree with me when I say that politics have consumed every aspect of life. Political viewpoints are closely tied with self-identity, making every argument the deciding factor in friendships, courtships, and familial relationships. The question remains, can this be remedied, or is it a lost cause?

I have determined this is not as cut-and-dried as it seems. When it comes to politics, no one is as informed as they want you to believe. A lot of the time, people will piggyback off of the political opinions of others, whether that be their parents, friends, or the general public. If they have taken the time to attempt to educate themselves, their information often comes from a long-winded thread on Twitter or a screenshot of a 5-Hour Energy-fueled blogpost from www.wakeupsheeple.com. Every day, their feed is filled with news and information catered to their biases, reinforcing the belief that anyone who does not think the way that they do is the epitome of ignorance and the harbinger of evil. With hours spent in their respective echo chambers under their belts, they are ready to go out and prove to everyone that they are superior.

Obviously, this is not going to end well, and you might have guessed based on personal experience. There are few things more frustrating than trying to talk sense into someone who refuses to listen. Your words, however rational, will go through one ear and out the other as you become subject to a rage-filled or snooty tirade about the economy or law enforcement or racial disparities. Everyone wants to feel that they are right; facing the possibility that they may not be is almost too much for some, so they elect to ignore it. Regardless of however many facts or whatever style of rhetoric you use, you cannot seem to get through to them. Unfortunately, it takes a great deal of conviction to unclog their ears, and the sooner you learn that, the better.

So how does one go about having a civil discussion, free of closed minds and hurled insults? The key is to come to it with open ears and a humble attitude. Politics are not as black and white as we would like to believe. Everyone has done wrong and no one has a perfect plan for setting everything. The other person is not your enemy, and they are not claiming a candidate or political party solely to spite you. They, just like you, have come to this decision as a result of their own personal journey. You are not the 12th century Catholic church. Your job is not to convert them by any means necessary. The purpose of a discussion is to exchange ideas and come away having learned something. If you see they are not open to hearing what you have to say, walk away. If they are, well, carry on with your conversation; make sure that you are listening to understand, not just to find a rebuttal.

When all is said and done, it is up to you to decide whether you want to become or remain friends. Were they actually racist, arrogant, or a “snowflake,” or did you go in believing they were? Take the time not just to listen, but to understand where the other person is coming from. Political opinions do not have to make or break relationships.