Staying Civil While Discussing Touchy Subjects

Staying Civil While Discussing Touchy Subjects

Don't want to be an a-hole? Follow this easy five-step guide.

This past week has seen a bunch of high-profile incidents take place, each one stirring up a load of controversy. Wednesday saw an undercover video released that purported to show a Planned Parenthood official discuss the sale of aborted fetuses (whether this is true remains a heated uncertainty), reigniting the national conversation on abortion and reproductive rights. Thursday saw the fatally horrific shootings of two U.S. Military recruiting stations, raising questions on gun laws and national attitudes toward global terrorism. In both cases, responses from both sides of the aisle have come hard and fast, and as is usual with such topics, many of the debates have been been far from civil. It seems that we as people have a hard time tackling controversial subjects without pitching our points in hyperbolic, no-holds-barred tirades, devolving the conversation until both parties are reduced to witticisms, wisecracks, and one-liners. I mean, we're only discussing lightweight topics like death and ethics, right? Of course this is the time to crank up the sarcasm and party politics!

If that attitude doesn't seem quite right, this list is for you. I have my own strongly-held beliefs in regards to these topics, but that's not what I'm writing about, and that's certainly not what anyone needs to hear. What we need as a nation is to find out the best answers to these issues, and that is not going to happen if we keep couching our discussions in terms of partisan poppycock. And now, I present a guide to avoiding a-holery while tackling heated issues.

1. Don't name call, you dumba--determined individual!

"Who ya calling dummy, Dummy?"

Really, I'm embarrassed that this has to make the list, but if anyone doubts the validity of this item, read an article's comment section on...pretty much any topic. Look, if you're arguing for your point, you're not doing yourself any favors by belittling your opponents with a pile of grade-school insults. It's petty, annoying, and contagious; eventually everyone's wallowing in the mud, even more deeply entrenched in their beliefs then when they started.

2. Do some research before running your mouth.

Relatable, no?

Again, this is obvious in theory, but often neglected in application. Most of us have some sort of affiliation in our life, whether it's religious, political, or otherwise. These affiliations often color our own viewpoints, and when an argument rises up, it's easy to fall back on a bunch of half-baked ideas informed by our loyalties. You know what's wrong with this picture? If everyone just falls back on prefabricated responses, instead of actually investigating the subject at hand, none of us get any closer to the truth. In the end, both sides go away, high fiving each other over beating the "other guys," and nobody wins.

3. Don't crack jokes about serious topics.

Right-wing pundit's response to new restrictions on abortions.

Left-wing pundit's response to concerns over the potential use of fetal matter in consumer foods.

As the old saying goes, "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar," and making light of your opponents' concerns definitely isn't honey. We all enjoy a good joke, even a bit of dark comedy from time to time, but when discussing important issues, you're not doing any favors by mocking those who disagree with you. And really, are death and mutilation really something you want to laugh at? I mean, come on, what kind of world are we trying to build?

Artist's conception of humanity's current world-building initiatives.

4. You don't have the answer to everything, so stop acting like it.

I think you dropped your name tag, Sir.

Of course we all know we don't know everything --it'd be crazy to think something like that! Trouble is, for all of our assurances to the contrary, a lot of times we argue as if our heads are the repositories for all wisdom. You know how annoying it is when you lay out all the facts in front of a person, and they still won't give up on their stupid position? That's exactly how you come across when you dig your heels in and spout off your "insight" without considering all of the facts before you.

5. Don't try to "win" an argument; try to find the truth.

Pay attention, class; this is your objective!

Let's face it --we all like to win, and we've been making competitions out of arguments long before "gamification" entered the modern lexicon. It's thrilling to defeat an opponent in a debate, but you know what? If that's your goal, you're chasing hollow victories. I know it's hard to avoid the temptation of royally crushing the opposition, but that doesn't advance the human condition. What we really should strive for is finding solutions to our problems. That process requires passionate debate from all sectors, no doubt, but the debate is only a means to the end. If we can't recognize that, we'll just keep on getting gridlocked in every situation, until we reach a stagnation so critical there may be no way to recover from it.

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10 Things I Threw Out AFTER Freshman Year Of College

Guess half the stuff on your packing list doesn't really matter

I spent the entire summer before my freshman year of college so WORRIED.

I also spent most of my money that summer on miscellaneous dorm stuff. I packed the car when the time finally came to move in, and spent the drive up excited and confused about what the heck was actually going on.

Freshman year came and went, and as I get ready to go back to school in just a few short weeks (!!), I'm starting to realize there's just a whole bunch of crap I just don't need.

After freshman year, I threw out:

1. Half my wardrobe.

I don't really know what I was thinking of owning 13 sweaters and 25 T-shirts in the first place. I wear the same five T-shirts until I magically find a new one that I probably got for free, and I put on jeans maybe four times. One pair is enough.

2. Half my makeup.

Following in the theme of #1, if I put on makeup, it's the same eyeliner-mascara combination as always. Sometimes I spice it up and add lipstick or eyeshadow.

3. My vacuum.

One, I basically never did it. Two, if I REALLY needed to vacuum, dorms rent out cleaning supplies.

4. Most of my photos from high school.

I didn't throw them ALL away, but most of them won't be making a return to college. Things change, people change, your friends change. And that's okay.

5. Excess school supplies.

Binders are heavy and I am lazy. I surprisingly didn't lose that many pens, so I don't need the fifty pack anymore. I could probably do without the crayons.

6. Cups/Plates/Bowls/Silverware.

Again, I am lazy. I cannot be bothered to wash dishes that often. I'll stick to water bottles and maybe one coffee cup. Paper plates/bowls can always be bought, and plastic silverware can always be stolen from different places on campus.

7. Books.

I love to read, but I really don't understand why I thought I'd have the time to actually do it. I think I read one book all year, and that's just a maybe.

8. A sewing kit.

I don't even know how to sew.

9. Excessive decorations.

It's nice to make your space feel a little more cozy, but not every inch of the wall needs to be covered.

10. Throw pillows.

At night, these cute little pillows just got tossed to the floor, and they'd sit there for days if I didn't make my bed.

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We're All Thinking It, I'm Saying It: Too Many People Are Running For President

I'm all for options, but man, do we really need 24? I mean, I can barely pick a flavor of ice cream at Baskin Robbins let alone a potential President.


There are, currently, 23 Democrats running for President. On the Republican side, there's, of course, Trump, but only one other candidate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. Democrats have a whole range of people running, from senators to congressmen, a former vice-president, and even a spiritual advisor. We can now say that there are DOZENS of people running for President in 2020.

Joe Biden has been leading the pack for quite some time now. He was even leading polls before he announced his campaign. Although he is the frontrunner, there really is no big favorite to win the nomination. Biden has been hovering around the mid-30s in most polls, with Bernie Sanders coming in second. Other minor candidates in the hunt are Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris.

After the surprising defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats have become electrified and have a mission to take back the White House after winning back the House of Representatives in 2018. There are so many people running in 2020, it seems that it will be hard to focus on who is saying what and why someone believes in something, but in the end, there can only be one candidate. This is the most diverse group of candidates ever, several women are running, people of color, the first out gay candidate, and several more.

There could be a problem when it comes to debate time. I mean, the first debate is next month. Having around 20-plus people on stage at the same time, debating each other kinda sounds like a nightmare. How can someone get their point across in the right amount of time when someone else is going to cut them off? Debates are usually around an hour and a half. So, if you divide it up, each candidate would get just under five minutes to speak. That would be in a perfect world of course.

Democrats seriously believe that they can beat Trump in 2020. They say they have learned from the mistakes of 2016, and have the guts and the momentum to storm back into the White House. By July of next year, there will be only one candidate left. Will they be able to reconcile the divide during the primaries? We will see. It will surely be a fun election cycle, so make sure to have your popcorn ready and your ballot at hand to pick your favorite candidate, no matter what party you lean towards.

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