For the past few weeks, we have been writing a series of articles highlighting each side of major and divisive political issues. Each of us tried to convince you, the reader, that our view was the correct one, and sway you to our respective sides.
We disagree on a number of topics, as was evidenced by these past columns, but one thing we both agree on is that hearing the opposition is important.
When major issues like abortion, immigration and gun control crop up, as they regularly do, many news sources tend to form a sort of echo chamber. Cable news sources on both sides tend to band together, forming a false consensus for their viewers. The internet is the same way, especially news aggregators like Facebook, Reddit or Tumblr, where you choose your own content.
In each case, reading only those sources which you agree with doesn’t help you get a better view on the issue. Instead, it puts blinders on you by blocking out contradicting opinions. It doesn’t make sure you’re more correct, just that you’re more confident.
If you do want to have a good, well-reasoned view, you can’t just absorb the evidence which supports your beliefs. You need to challenge your beliefs, attacking them where they’re weakest. Those who disagree with you will helpfully point out which of the reasons you have for your beliefs are the weakest, and by doing so give you an opportunity to refine and improve them.
The fact that your beliefs may need improvement isn’t something to shy away from or be ashamed of. Indeed, when someone challenges your belief successfully, causing you to rethink what you thought you knew, it is a time for celebration, not dejection You weren’t only proven wrong, you also became more correct.
This is an important aspect of being an educated and effective citizen of a democracy. Voting gives power to the people, which is a beautiful thing. What it also does is invest a whole lot of brainpower in making good decisions. The cumulative brainpower of an entire country could, in theory, be utilized to decide on which direction the country should go.
If we want to be the best civically active citizens we can be, we shouldn’t be dogmatic and stick with the herd. Instead, we should critically examine each side.That means giving the other side a fair hearing, and trying as hard as we can to figure out where the flaws in our own beliefs lie.
It is also important to remember that your view isn’t the only one out there. Often times, when your view is shared by all of your friends, and it echoes across your social media and your conversations, it can be easy to forget that one friend group does not a consensus make.
It is easy to say, among friends, that “only idiots really believe that,” or “luckily we’re smarter than that.” Yet those beliefs do exist out there, and need to be acknowledged.
In the end, it is the job of media organizations like the Concordiensis to bring to light both the drastic and subtle differences in opinion which make our country what it is. And it is the duty of any civic-minded citizen to listen to the voices of their opponents and address them head on, rather than avoiding them or tuning them out.