By Patrice Linman
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” ~ Evelyn Beatrice Hall
2016 brought one of the most divisive presidential elections in our country’s history. After the results of the election were announced, it got even worse. Our country became divided: friendships ended and family members stopped talking to each other. Bridges were burned and gaps were created among Americans over one thing: differing opinions.
Everyone has opinions, but some are stronger than others. One of the ideals that we built this country on is that every citizen has the right to freedom of speech. We can speak out against our government. If there’s something that we do not like, we can say so. We can be the voice of change. If something is wrong, we can stand up against it. Nothing is wrong with having a different opinion but we have to respect the opinions of others. Debating, talking, having a conversation, all of these are great and should be encouraged, but there still has to be respect. We cannot just cut someone out for not sharing our same beliefs. If we surrounded ourselves with people who think and believe the same way we do, we’d never have any change, we’d stay close-minded and ignorant in our little bubbles.
We cannot avoid conversation either. A lot of people try to avoid talking about things like politics where they know people have strong opinions because they afraid of being yelled at, being accused of something they’re not, or losing someone they care about because their views are different. But if we never talk about anything, nothing will ever happen. We’ll have no change, no progression, and our country will become stagnant. Some people also don’t want to talk about the election because they don’t care. “It doesn’t matter”, they say “whatever happens, happens and there’s no point in dwelling on it”. But that’s not true at all. It does matter, our voice matters. We cannot just accept it and move on. If people have a problem, they should speak up, protest in some way. It is their right after all.
Don’t accuse someone of thinking a certain way until you hear what they have to say. Don’t accuse them of being some sort of extreme either. Just because they voted for a candidate, does not mean they believe or promote everything that candidate does. And just because each side has an extreme does not mean that everyone falls into those extremes. Not all Republicans are racists or white-supremacists and not every Democrat is a crazy Tumblr Social Justice Warrior who gets offended at everything. These are just minorities, very vocal minorities, but minorities nonetheless, and they do not represent the population.
We must make conversation, talk with people and listen. We must respect and love each other in this time of hatred and division. We have the right of freedom of speech, so let people freely say their opinions and beliefs. And who knows, it might just change your own.