We Should Be Talking About This

The political climate in Washington is polarized. Students all over the country are apathetic. Conflict and debate on heavy topics are typically avoided, and for a good reason. Up until this semester I refused to talk politics with anyone. I hate discourse, and I feel uncomfortable when people shove ideas down my throat. Confrontation has never been my strength.  I thought that the best solution was to never discuss certain topics with friends such as anything do to with religion, policy, or politics.

The first day I walked into my Communication Criticism class I hated it. I had to read legal cases, write papers, and give presentations that were for one side of a case.   I skipped the debate club in high school for a reason. It seemed like a nightmare. For two weeks I sat in the class with other students debated and I said nothing. If you know me not saying anything in class is not the norm. After two weeks of staying silent something clicked in me, and I couldn't shut up.  Three nuns broke onto a military base to protect violence peacefully. They walked away with a slap on the wrists. A man stole from the Trevi Foundation for thirty years, and used that money to survive and help others. Is stealing every justified. These were the two cases we were presented. I found myself arguing for both sides of the cases, trying to get to the bottom of morality.  Realizing quickly to throw absolutes out of the window.  Everything that used to be black and white suddenly began gray. I began to critically think, for probably the first time in my life.

We discussed other controversial topics such as, should the Pledge of Allegiance say ‘Under God”, should there be surveillance cameras in schools, and is stealing ever justified. Hard topics to cover, but all of my classmates were respectful. Even students who had disagreeing opinions said their part and never insulted someone for thinking differently. The cases could so obviously swing either way once we all critically analyzed them.

This is what we should be doing. We should be talking about difficult subjects like gender pay gap, the legalization of marijuana, or ‘the right to be forgotten’. These issues are going to appear in legislation and political platforms. It is important for college students to be informed. Yet, it feels like my college students are lackadaisical and uninterested in talking about important subjects.

Part of the problem lies in communication.  Students just don’t know how to talk to each other about these issues. It is not easy. The biggest key is to be respectful of differing opinions. Everyone comes from a different frame of reference and cultural background that his or her perspective is based upon. Even if disagreement or conflict arises we can still be friends. I get the chance to learn from someone different than myself, and that is enlightening. So often we surround ourselves with people exactly like us, which is how polarization begins.

Have a conversation. Talk to someone different from you. If it makes you uncomfortable, good! It is supposed to. These are conversations we need to be having. Having an opinion on the things that matter are the only way we are going to see change in this world.