As EIC for an Odyssey community, I recently hosted an article brainstorming session for my team. One of the topics that came up while we were discussing current events was gun control.
"Oh no, this is going to bring on a heated argument," I thought to myself.
To my surprise, it was one of the most civil political debates I've ever witnessed. Though members of the team had very differing stances, they engaged in polite conversation; everyone actively listened to one another talk, and not once did anyone resort to disparagement or mockery.
I greatly admired the maturity of these creators, but my initial reaction got me thinking...why was I scared of a more "heated" argument?
Though in the past I've been one to keep my viewpoints to myself and prioritize "keeping the peace," I've come to the conclusion that political issues are something that should...scratch that...NEED to be talked about.
And, as long as the conversation stays civil, it's OK if things get a little heated; these are issues that people are passionate about for a reason!
Now I know it's said to avoid political speech "at the dinner table" amongst family and friends, but isn't that how we learn -- from one another? Isn't that how we collectively strive toward a better understanding of how to efficiently and fairly run this country?
According to theorist John Milton, political speech isn't something we shouldn't shy away from.
"Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple, who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter," he said.
You see, Milton believed the marketplace of ideas, which is, by basic definition, the belief that "open debate, through which there is an exchange or competition of ideas, is the only way for people to discern truth and reject falsehood."
The problem with this, in my case, is I never feel confident enough to exert my opinion. If I am engaging in political commentary, I want to know the facts -- and know them well.
And there's nothing wrong with wanting to do the research -- in fact, that's what you SHOULD (cannot emphasize this enough) do -- and lots of it! But that's the key, you actually have to spend the time to do it. And that's something, I will admit, I do not always do. However, it is something I am striving to do so I can become less ignorant of the world around me.
So, dear readers, here is my advice to you (and to myself):
Take the time to do your homework.
Research both sides of the subject and learn the facts. You will be able to make your point much better if you appear to be a credible source to others.
Talk to people with opposing view points.
Again, respect their opinion and hear them out! Don't aim to change their mind; aim politely share your viewpoint. You never know what you can learn from one another when keeping your mind (and speech!) open.
Travel outside your "bubble."
I've always advocated for travel because you get to see life outside of your "bubble" -- outside of the world you're constantly surrounded by. Traveling exposes you to people with different situations, different viewpoints and different methods of doing things. And possibly seeing first-hand the issues you advocate for will not only help you know exactly what you're talking about, but it will also make you seem more credible.
Put your money (or time/energy) where your mouth is.
Yes, political speech is crucial to a democracy, but it's purpose extends beyond the act of speech itself. If we reach a "truth" on an issue, shouldn't our next move be to take action? However cliche this may be, I believe we need to "walk the walk," not just "talk the talk." If you have a strong opinion on an issue, help create the change you wish to see happen (Yes, that was Gandhi's "be the change..." quote reworded; I was attempting to tone down the "cliche-ness" of this paragraph).
Anyway folks, this is my two cents on political speech. Am I an expert on it? No. Am I glad to be sharing my opinion in hopes of stirring up the exchange of opinions and ideas? Yes.
So please, share with me your thoughts on the subject in the comment section below!
To quote the great (and fictional) scholar, Frasier Crane: