I am afraid. I believe we are losing our ability to have debate and dialogue.
Constant, clear communication is the best method humanity has used to solve its interpersonal conflicts. It’s this or violence or at least some type of force. Forceful solutions only ever sweep the situations under the rug.
Countries would rather negotiate than fight a war. Couples would rather talk out an issue than start finding small ways to ruin the other’s life.
Or, at least, that’s what it would be like in an ideal world.
We hate hearing ideas we don’t want to hear. All of us have experienced this; speech can be so much worse than physical pain. On the other hand, overpowering someone through brute force or action is empowering. When that’s done, the other can lose his or her capacity to counter.
While it may be easier to attempt to shut down your opponent, this method never solves any issues. However, we would often do this rather than hear out the other side. All sides of the political spectrum are guilty of this.
Last month, the mayor of Kenner, Louisiana, declared that recreation facilities in the city were not allowed to purchase Nike products in response to the company’s engagement with Colin Kaepernick.
In 2016, Canada’s Bill C-16 put into law that, in certain instances, those who identify as transgender must be referred to by their preferred pronouns. Similar bills are starting to emerge in the U.S.
Both of these are hard issues that require hours of dialogue. An overarching government policy is not the correct way to go about these issues as they once again just sweep the problem under the rug. If someone cannot express their thoughts, no conclusion will be reached, but the ideas will still be there. If an argument is never settled through speech, it will only return. Germany was weakened after the first world war, but the Treaty of Versailles settled nothing in their hearts. This is why Hitler so easily rose to power; he appealed to an unresolved issue.
Never assume the person you are speaking to has bad intentions. Don’t get me wrong, they very well might, but don’t assume that right from the beginning. We can’t assume we know everything, or that we and our closest friends know everything. Try to make friends with people whose ideas differ greatly from yours. You might learn something if only you listen.
Thomas Jefferson said, “To preserve the peace of our fellow citizens, promote their prosperity and happiness, reunite opinion, cultivate a spirit of candor, moderation, charity and forbearance towards one another are objects calling for the efforts and sacrifices of every good man and patriot.”
This type of conversation is so difficult. It’s hard to look at our friends and call them out on a character issue or a hurtful action, much less tell them their religious worldview or political philosophy is all wrong. Jefferson had a different mindset.
He said, “I never considered a difference of opinion, in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”
The most difficult conversations I have are with my family and closest friends, and yet, if both parties stick to it and want an outcome of peace, it always just brings us closer in the end. When we listen to each other and keep moving forward with honesty, real resolutions can be found.
This is a process that has to be finished, and not brought to a halt midway. This was the Founding Fathers’ idea behind the First Amendment. Conversation was key to them. They knew free speech could always solve more problems than force, whether it be between individuals or movements.
We cannot sacrifice dialogue to our feelings. Some scary ideas are out there that at least deserve our attention.
There are some who believe socialism has only ever destroyed countries, and that this ideology is taking route in many young minds. There are some who believe the police force is disproportionately shooting African Americans just because of their skin color.
Allow me to go deeper.
There are some who believe that when we die we cease to exist completely. There are some who believe that when we die we sit in a pit of hellfire for eternity.
All of these would be, or are, horrifying realities. But we will never reach any conclusion if we do not talk to one another.
This is a university, and the point of a university is to hear new ideas, and test your old ones. What a great place to do it — there is so much diversity of thought here. We might need to hear, digest and accept some brutal ideas.
We need to stop being so afraid of offending one another and being offended ourselves. Although this may be painful, it is well worth it. There is truth out there, and an answer to our questions, which can be found through dialogue.
Peter Loganbill is a Collegian staff writer and junior in public relations. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.