Your Opinion Isn’t Right

The presidential race is becoming increasingly embroiled in aggression, scapegoating, and general malcontent between ever separating factions. In such a time, the faults and frailties of modern political discourse fall out at alarming regularity. Found in both the rhetoric of the candidates themselves and the countless debates held between their millions of supporters, the inability for Americans to deliberate their differing beliefs is shocking. So often this shortcoming stems from one key source: the misunderstanding of opinion versus fact.

Merriam-Webster defines an opinion as “a belief, judgment, or way of thinking about something: what someone thinks about a particular thing.” While not obvious at first, the crucial piece of information to be gained from this definition is: an opinion is not fact. An opinion is as right just as it is wrong. Do you support increased gun regulations or are you against that? Either way, you’d be neither right nor wrong. Because that is your opinion. The duty of every civilized person is to recognize that, and then proceed appropriately, engaging in quality discussions. Alas, how little this is reality.

Often the phrase “you are entitled to your wrong opinion” is tossed around. Oh how wrong (yes, wrong!) those who choose to say this are. By definition. It’s this mindset that hinders political discourse so effectively. When it comes to politics, it is essential for people to disagree, and to debate with those who don’t share their same beliefs. That’s fundamentally what politics is all about. However, the incredibly close-minded attitude that all opinions aren’t created equal causes politics to come crashing down.

People will disagree, that is human nature. People will have any number of opinions, and they may or may not align with a random other’s. Two people may find themselves in a bar, café, school, wherever, and begin a conversation on their differing points of view. If they respect each other, and entertain their opinions and beliefs as valid and, by definition, neither right nor wrong, then healthy political discourse can happily take place. As citizens of the world (for this issue of misinterpreting the definition of opinion is not at all limited to the United States), it is our duty to thoroughly grasp what opinions are, and how productive conversations that form around contrasting ideas can really be.

We’re All Made of Fiction

We all love a good story. Be it film, TV, or literature, we as humans so often envelop ourselves into worlds populated by all sorts of characters doing all sorts of things. So often the stories that captivate us the most involve characters we can relate to, ones that represent some form of our own being. And while everyone is bound to like certain works of fiction and certain characters more than others, anyone can find themselves in any fictional character in one way or another.

The easiest way to represent this phenomenon is by looking at groups of characters that all hold something that we relate to. Look at the sitcom Friends. Sure, we may all think that we’re a Chandler, or Monica, or Joey, but there’s no way that anyone is solely comparable to just one of them. While someone may be childish and loving like Joey, they could also be very neat like Monica, and a free spirited eccentric like Phoebe. People are incredibly complex, and the combinations are infinite, barring any parallel universes that may or may not exist.

This idea is not at all limited to Friends, it can be found everywhere. You may have traits of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo. You may look at yourself as predominately relatable to Ron Weasley, but also see much of yourself in Luna Lovegood. Of course this is only looking at one work at a time. Each movie you see or book you read, you can go through this process again and again, each time finding more representations of yourself. And then there are all the Buzzfeed quizzes that try to label you, based on a few simple questions, as a certain character, or even real-life person. You can take the same quiz again and again and get different answers, all the more showing how no one fits one mold.

Of course this doesn’t imply that real people are just an amalgam of countless fictional characters, but that these limited fictional characters (limited because how much can really be said about anyone in a two hour movie, or even a 400 page book) are boiled-down representations of actual individuals. The complexity of humans is immense, unfathomable at times. And while it can be comforting, enjoyable, and helpful to relate oneself to fictional characters, it will only ever be an approximation. The fact that no one can be perfectly represented by a character attests to how unique each and every person that lives and has lived on this planet really is.