Engaging in open-minded political discussion



Opinion Columnist Colin Horning discusses the current political climate, and how many U.S. citizens are less willing to talk about politics because they're worried about offending the other side. Horning argues that open-minded political discussion is some of the most important conversations Americans can be having.

COLIN HORNING, Opinion Columnist

How come talking about politics is so controversial? The answer to this question is quite simple actually, because there are, of course, two sides to every story. But nowadays, it seems that we as a society tend to shy away from open political discussion and instead revert to either insulting each other or just avoiding talking about important issues altogether. Keep in mind, both sides of the aisle are guilty of this practice. No matter if you’re Liberal or Conservative, Republican or Democrat, Libertarian or Socialist, we all have had times in which we’ve just avoided talking about a relevant issue because we feared offending the other side or didn’t want to become too controversial.

This is a big problem in America today. Open political discussion can be one of the most productive and beneficial actions that we take amongst ourselves as a society, because only then can we be truly tolerant and accepting of people whom we disagree with. This helps us understand all sides of the issue, rather than letting our confirmation biases shine through while ignoring other relevant information to the issue. A lot of this has roots in the rise of the Internet and the ability to live inside information bubbles. The Internet allows us to seal off information contradictory to our beliefs and values while at the same time feeding us the information we want to see. When this happens, we lose the ability to see the perspectives of all sides of the issue, which then leads over into real-life discussion. The general lack of exposure to ideas across the political spectrum lead us to be unindulgent to someone who has different political beliefs. By this point, we’ve probably lost hope of an open discussion.

Now, I know it’s completely unrealistic to expect to change someone’s mind just by talking with them about current events (or anything for that matter), but that isn’t the point. Instead of trying to persuade someone to come over to your side, the main objective should be to express one’s ideals in a way in which someone who disagrees with you can completely understand. It should have the intent of making it clear-cut what you believe without throwing an insult at the person, because no one has ever been persuaded after being taunted. If people on both sides successfully and openly exchange these ideas while being approachable in the process, it can only benefit those involved. Both sides can come away with a better understanding of why those they disagree with hold those views, and will have a greater knowledge of contemporary political issues.

However, another reason why we tend to shy away from political discussions is the simple fact that many of us have become too worried about offending the other side. Most of this will trace back to modern-day political correctness culture that has been growing for quite some time. Rather than freely having conversations about controversial topics such as abortion or transgender bathrooms, our society tends to avoid discussion with the other side altogether. It stems from the emotion attached to these topics and the worry that someone might become too upset.

I’m not saying that we need to force the discussion of certain issues if they will make someone upset or uncomfortable. It’s completely understandable if a controversial issue would make someone uneasy to talk about; that’s what makes it controversial. But since these topics have so much emotion attached to them, most of us try to avert the dialogue altogether.

The best way to hold a political discussion is to be as open-minded and tolerant as possible, while at the same time being firm on your opinion to make sure the other side knows your beliefs. To truly become a free-thinking and broad-minded society, we need to not be afraid to discuss contentious topics and do our best to understand all ideas.