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.