Debate: a word that, during an election year, connotes bitter vitriol and unequivocal dualism.
The role of open debate in our society seems to be blurred by click-bait headlines and ambiguous political lines. For a moment, step away from your political associations and consider the true gift that debate is and should be.
Growing up, my mother always allowed my brother and me to voice our grievances. If we disagreed with something, we were asked to say so and if we thought something was unfair, then we were asked to speak up about it. Granted, my mom was still the parent in these situations and ultimately made the calls, but she heard us out and, when appropriate, compromised. At the time, these exchanges involved complaining about bedtimes or post-prom plans, but there were implicit lessons in our exchanges that still apply to our lives, though we have both left the nest; we learned that listening to each other, even when we disagree, is important and there is a way to voice your opinion that allows for growth for both sides.
It is annoying to watch some of the political pundits treat debate and open forum like the general public treats movies, rewarding recycled stories more than real substance; it is mortifying that our debates have devolved into insults about finger size or criticisms of clothing choices.
Sure, the memes and the absurdity of some of these stories are hilarious. However, there is something wrong with our political discourse when we stray from the purpose of an open forum--that is, to address issues, voice opinions and solve problems.The power of debate is then diminished-- the power to change minds and educate others. That power is important and fundamentally why we have freedom of speech.
I have noticed another fundamental problem recently that is possibly a direct result of the lack of real discussions about politics: no one is willing to change their damn mind.
I have watched or been a part of debates about abortion, fracking and feminism that have gone on for hours with great points made by all sides; unfortunately, by the time the dust settled, neither side had nudged one bit and, worse, had refused to at all consider what the other side offered. Personally, I have taken these debates as learning opportunities and love to hear other people's opinions because I realize that there is nothing weak about learning from someone else's opinion. There is nothing weak about changing your mind.
It seems we are divided now more than ever and it truly does not have to be that way. We can have Republicans and Democrats occupy the same space and address the same issues without jabs, slights, libel and slander. Though we disagree on social, economic or foreign issues, we all truly want to better society and America in general. As we move closer to election time and your Facebook feed fills with claims without a factual basis and quotes taken out of context, remember to check up on the facts yourself and actually listen to what the other side has to say.
You may just learn something.