Disagree or Disrespect: Today’s Political Debate
Issue   |   Tue, 10/03/2017 - 23:06

These are times when political views have become identities. When someone mentions their ideology, we assume we know all about them. They must fit a certain mold, live a certain lifestyle and be a certain type of person. If they believe in the same things that we do, perfect. This must mean they are good, kind and educated. But if they don’t — then, they must be ignorant, bad or even stupid.

There is no middle ground anymore, no place for someone to be a “person.” It’s either they are right or they are evil. This is decided by something so simple as a muttered sentence regarding a political topic.
I have done this before. I’ve found myself moving away from people because of their political views or judging them because of their tendency to disagree with me. I have fallen into this trap like many others and believed that people with my beliefs should not be around people with opposite beliefs.

There seems to be a misconception about political identities. The word “liberal” has become synonymous with socialist, atheist, and most importantly, hating conservatives. By the same token, the word “conservative” has become equivalent to hating liberals and being a greedy capitalist who follows a childish man without questioning. How much truth is there to any of this?

I am a liberal. I believe that the government should be looking out for the little guy, the shop owners, the mine workers, the waitresses and those who find themselves unable to fight the pressure of the big corporations. I believe that every human has a right to quality healthcare and that women have a right to decide what to do with their own bodies.

These are my views. Some might disagree with me. In fact, most might disagree with me. I think that’s all right — normal, even. If everyone agreed with all my political opinions, I might be doing something wrong.

The reason why sharing different opinions is vital is because we can benefit from one another, see things in different lights and perhaps shape each other’s view of the world accordingly. That’s why debating any topic is so important. However, quality debate has been missing from the political landscape for a while. The biggest reason for the absence of debate is the divide that leaves no room for common ground and therefore no room for respect.

How many times have we disrespected each other under the assumption that we were only expressing our opinion? Liberals have made fun of the people who voted for Donald Trump, thinking they were in the right for doing so. Conservatives have attacked the people who work hard to improve the country, calling them terrorists and then justifying it as free speech. That might be the case; however, do these excuses change the fact that both sides are behaving unkindly towards millions of people?

To disagree and to disrespect are not the same thing, yet this point eludes most people. Everyone is willing to debate, but no one is willing to respect. Unfortunately, that won’t do.

An open and respectful discussion about topics we care about is what will drive us forward. We need these discussions on topics such as the benefits of lowering government control on the economy, free speech, fighting terrorist groups who are spreading violence and death all over the world — about the importance of globalization, the responsibility the wealthy have towards society and the inequality that is a huge obstacle for women and queer people.

Perhaps, by the end of it, no one will change their minds. But a debate isn’t about changing minds. It is about seeing both sides of the argument. It is about shaping the future with what we have learned from the past.

But right now, we are not listening. We are not respecting people’s beliefs, their experiences, their views of the world or their identities. Mocking and insulting them seems to be the easier solution in a hostile world. It is the focus on our differences, the notion that we can tell everything about a person from their political alliance and the inclination to think there is nothing else to them that makes us willing participants in a dangerous cycle that deepens the divide and might even cause further damage.

We must learn to see the bridge between us, the person behind the ideologies, rather than the cliff that divides us. We need to learn to disagree without disrespect so that we may learn from each other and change the world around us.