In our highly divided culture, it’s not hard to find those who agree with you and those who oppose you.
Anywhere you go you are evaluated, anything you say is both supported and rejected, and everyone you meet has an opinion. This is not a bad thing either. There is a reason we are divided in the United States, and that’s because we have different ways of approaching things. We need the obvious division. Now, the typical separation is Democrat vs Republican, but we can divide it forever into even more specific categories: liberal vs conservative, big government vs small government, progressive vs traditional values. The mistake here is not in picking the wrong side; the mistake is found in not choosing a side at all. Refusing to stand up for what you believe in, because you are fearful of the powerful or those who might not like what you choose…that is the true error.
There are two dominant ways of thinking these days: 1) Toe the line and repeat back everything you are supposed to repeat, or 2) Don’t take a position and hope you avoid any negative attention. Those without a backbone take either path. Are there powerful people in the world? Of course. Will you please everyone? Absolutely not. Should you hide in your small corner of the world to minimize those who won’t like you? No way. Regardless of the amount of positive or negative feedback, one should hold tightly to that acclaimed statement spoken by Polonius in Shakespeare’s classic play Hamlet, “This above all else: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” If you believe something, be man enough to say so. With that in mind, let’s look at a current event.
Recently, President-Elect Donald Trump held a press conference. In that conference he decried false information that was being spread about him by media sites. In a very entertaining segment of that briefing, a CNN reporter tried to ask a question. The incoming President said he would not call on that reporter, slamming the organization as “fake news” and unworthy of getting attention. The reporter got testy and kept trying to talk over Mr. Trump. For about a minute they went back-and-forth, with the reporter eventually getting silenced.
Some have called on the reporter to apologize for talking so roughly to the winner of the 2016 election. Others have called on The Donald to make amends for his strong-handed behavior that day. Everyone seems to be up in arms over the confrontation of ideas and opinions. We have reached the point where you cannot stand for your position if someone disagrees with you. Apologies abound, and insincere regret is the standard operating procedure for when someone is ‘offended’. Here is what should actually happen: neither Trump nor the reporter should apologize. Both should have thick skin and be willing to engage in genuine debate over their differing viewpoints. No apologies are necessary. I don’t want to live in a world where we have to go out of our way to make everyone feel safe in conversation. Sometimes discomfort is needed to instigate proper thinking.
Anyone who chooses to speak in public about an issue must be willing to go through the gauntlet of open dialogue. If you cannot do this, then stay silent and support those who do speak in public on your behalf. Additionally, if someone has a problem with another’s public opinion, complaining about it does nothing. Either get in the arena or else keep your whining to yourself. The famous phrase applies here: People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.
I am thankful we live in a place where public disagreement is not only legal, but encouraged. Nazi Germany is not my ideal political system. When our society gets to the point where variance in perspective is no longer tolerated, we will be on the cusp of losing our liberty entirely. So I cheer Trump’s aggressive opinions, as I also applaud the aggressiveness of the journalist who opposed him. Whether it’s in a national press conference, a local newspaper opinion column, or a conversation at the water cooler, we need more willingness to express our divided ideas. Tolerating honest and open disagreement makes our culture better.
So instead of just complaining, get involved.