Different, Not Wrong

SAM KESSELMAN (GRADE 11)

Today I want to discuss the right way to respectfully disagree with one another, something I feel is super relevant in the context of the 2016 presidential election. The great thing about our country and the election process is the principle that all of our ideas matter. Many people might not share our own perspectives on issues such as marriage equality, healthcare systems, etc. Different perspectives, and different ways of handling these political disagreements, are prevalent in this election and even in our own conversations with friends.

During campaign events, many candidates or their supporters face tricky situations when they are confronted by people who disagree with them. You can find several instances on YouTube where candidates are confronted by loud hecklers who disagree with their policies. At rallies and town halls, Hillary Clinton often faces boisterous members of the audience who shout and interrupt her speeches. One thing I admire a lot about Hillary is that she often takes the civil route when people interrupt her, unlike candidates such as Donald Trump. Hillary listens to her hecklers, even if these conflicts involve misinformation on the heckler’s side. She often responds to her critics, and proves that she can civilly and efficiently resolve a problem. On the other hand, candidates such as Trump have hecklers forcefully removed. He has even encouraged violence against these protesters. This is not right because words should not be met with violence.

Trump also does not hit the mark when he is attempting to disagree with someone. He falls back on insults, and instead of focusing on substance, gets caught up in creating immature nicknames for his opponents. When he faced opposition from the GOP party, he used such phrases as calling Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” or calling Marco Rubio “Little Rubio.”

When we discuss politics as teens, we sometimes fall into a similar rut. As a millennial, many friends of mine were supporters of Bernie Sanders. Although I’m obviously a Hillary fan, this is cool—we can and should talk about politics even if we are not of voting age. However, we should disagree on policy, not resort to cheap insults. People sometimes say things like, “you’re so stupid, your ideas are wrong.” That is not a productive way to move forward and talk effectively. Remember: your goal is to bounce ideas off each other, not to put someone down or prove them wrong. Along the same lines, many Democratic teens have harsh words to say about Trump supporters: “awful, racist, homophobic, etc.” Stereotyping an entire group of people makes you no better or smarter  than them. It’s really important to stay away from generalizations of a constituency in this election.

So, I want to leave you with is this: if you have differing opinions with someone, try to respectfully disagree—don’t drown out their voice or put them down. If you listen to them, you’ll witness a point of view different from your own. Just try to remember: this belief is neither stupid nor invalid. Only different.

Photo credit: Tommy Japan

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