Jensen-Coon: Respectful Debate

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Emma Tanner

Politically correct: unbiased, neutral, nonpartisan. Do you think this accurately describes how our political parties speak or present themselves? I personally do not. There are many offensive and crude things said in today’s political sphere — on both sides.

People are people, and that is what they do sometimes. Does it make it right or excusable? No. However, it does remind us that we are all together in this fight for right, and sometimes things can get heated and chaotic.

Contention stems from anger and animosity. Nine times out of 10, contention will never bring success. So, does this mean we just give up the fight for what we believe to be right? Absolutely not.

Hold tight to the things you believe in. Hold tight to the battles you think are worth the strife. Struggle is undoubtedly on the road to finding and keeping the sacred, significant or salient things in our lives. When you reflect on the most important things in life, you realize this is always true. It is meant to be this way; we appreciate and cherish those things more because we learn what matters most to us and put effort into sustaining it.

So how do we fight for the right and not cause contention? I believe proper social debate can brew respect. When stating your side of the issue, disclaimers can be necessary and bring a sense of knowing to the other side of the story. Showing respect by sincerely trying to understand the other’s viewpoint is also a safe place to reside whenever entering into an opinion-charged conversation. One more useful strategy is letting the opposing side know that you are not trying to convince them of something. Rather, your desire to understand more view points and express your own can release initial tension. Hopefully you can mean this sincerely. Sometimes we are on the wrong side and should be willing to switch. Other times, you can say, “we must agree to disagree,” and be satisfied with having mutually respected opinions.

In Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech, he brings up another important strategy, the importance of not becoming bitter toward those who disagree with you. “And that is something that I must say to my people who stand on the worn threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred,” King said.

Amidst advocating for equality due to their skin color, these individuals faced great tribulations. But King knew better than to stoop to the low levels of their antagonistic counterparts. His wisdom brought him respect from all sides, and success in leading a massive movement for civil rights. He is now revered for his leadership and tactics.

One of King’s marvelous tactics was unifying those who participated in this movement by reminding them they have the same hopes and goals. He expresses this when saying, “With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

We can often become inappropriately defensive when entering into these types of conversations or situations because a sense of loneliness overtakes our minds. Remembering that it is illogical to think you’re the only one who believes and stands for something can be comforting. Encourage those around you to stick with what they believe will embolden you to feel you are not the only one behind a cause.

No matter your position on certain issues — LGBTQ+, political ideas, religious affiliations, etc. — remember respect is key, and there is always someone who will disagree and agree with you. Most importantly, never lose passion for or be afraid to become passionate about important issues. Treating the important issues with respect and kindness, coupled with a willingness to defend what is right brings change.

People willing to stand beside their beliefs are the ones who change the world; just look at King and his followers. I would like to encourage you just as he encouraged his listeners. “We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline….Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of mending physical force with soul force.”

letters@chronicle.Utah.edu

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