This post was inspired in part by a recent series of online debates I found myself entangled in, as well as others recently observed.
In the theme of this election day, here’s a pro tip for those who consciously start (or engage in) political debate.
When somebody decides they don’t like what you have to say, and disagrees with you, debates you, argues with you, or tells you that you’re an idiot, guess what?
It’s a good thing. Seriously.
As long as they aren’t actually preventing you from speaking or responding – you are not being suppressed. You are not getting shouted down, and the other person’s opinion is not being “shoved down your throat.”
If a reasonable, back-and-forth debate causes you to feel oppressed… then you’re probably doing it wrong. You likely just have a weak argument (or can’t deal with disagreement). Either way, the problem isn’t with the person you’re debating.
Free speech is messy. Free speech means a measure of responsiblity. It’s the responsibility to acknowledge and defend the free speech of others, even when it makes you uncomfortable. Actually, it’s most important when it makes you uncomfortable. It’s so common to hear people claim that one issue or another is being “shoved down their throats.” Really? An idea is being forced on you? Or could it possibly be that you just don’t like the idea and don’t want to argue (or can’t argue) the point?
More than once have I observed (and experienced) somebody picking a fight, only to later claim they were being suppressed/oppressed/picked on/singled out/shouted down/and so on… And why? Because they were challenged on their claims. Apparently, to some, free speech means only free speech for oneself.
Rather than feel like a victim because someone else had the audacity to disagree with you… Listen. Debate. Disagree. Agree. Think. Use your brain. There’s an actual chance you may learn something, and even, *gasp*, change your mind! The horror!
Debate is not only healthy, but it’s absolutely essential. We live in a democratically tinged society (in theory). A successful democracy (or representative democracy, republic, etc) requires disagreement and dissent to function. A complete consensus leads to corruption and intellectual entropy. No matter how good an idea is, thoughtful opposition is vital. Not only does it keep one sharp, it also keeps one honest.
Don’t be afraid to challenge someone. Don’t be afraid to argue for your beliefs. But also understand that you aren’t the only one with valid opinions. Your free speech only has value if everyone else has an equal measure of free speech. And someone else exercising it by disagreeing with you isn’t suppressing you. Quite the opposite. Debate gives your free speech meaning.
Quit bitching and get to the debate. The world of government, economics, politics… it’s all too important not to discuss.
And go vote!