The problem of using politics in a debate

Graphic by Jessi Wood

 

A few days ago I had the pleasure of engaging in a political debate, fueled by opinion, dogma and pure partisan ideology. An argument that is essentially endless, because arguing with an opinion is like trying to catch a rabbit on crack; as it takes no specific direction and things change real quick.

Now, I’m all for the debate; in truth I live for it. However, today I find that, regardless of what the theme in question is, your political ideology or perceived political orientation predicts a stalemate of frustration equal to losing in Monopoly.

For instance, within a discussion I was recently engaged in, I was accused of supporting the bombing of children in the West Bank and Gaza. Now, to make one thing clear, I do support Israel and I do not support violence aimed at children – or anyone for that matter.

However, the initial premise assumed the bias that as a Jew – even though Canadian – I am to support all actions Israel takes. As a result, instead of explaining my position on the Arab-Israeli conflict, I was left defending myself in relation to not being considered a child murderer.

This gravely derails any move toward a consensus in either position, because the crux of the argument is neatly avoided by attacking the defendant’s morality as a human being. In turn, you must either agree or risk being ostracized from the human community.

These discussions as a whole  are so valuable for growth, as no one person can know everything. We grow by conversing with each other, and as a result find that some of the beliefs we have about a specific subject are invalid or simply misguided or in the same right present a fault in another’s beliefs.

The opinion is a magnificent gateway into the realm of knowledge, but this entry can only be potentiated by stepping into the other side of awareness.

So take pride in your opinions, so long as they lead to intellectual pursuit; and that begins with understanding the alternate view.

Yet, today people guard these gates of opinion like the United States guards the Declaration of Independence. They cling to them like scripture, preach them like a pastor but stand armed in offence at the instance of anything threatening to knock the sanctuary of safe idealism down.

This is where my concern lies, because instead of stating one’s opinion and building it up with fact, the entirety of today’s disputes are built on speculation and solidified by emotion. As a result, they are used to discredit the individual rather than the position.

We can all recall the incident that occurred at Laurier just a few months ago, when holding the alternate opinion about gender neutral pronouns, or simply discussing it, was presented as Hitler-esque.

On the contrary, I am arguing that by suppressing people’s freedom to convey their thoughts about an issue – in a respectful manner – is fascist in nature. At the end of it all we’re human beings and we all deserve the right to be heard, and if you’re offended, then I commend you because that gives you the drive to communicate why a certain thing is offensive and wrong.

It allows the other to acknowledge this wrongful opinion, or maybe present the ability to circumvent yours. These are the discussions worth having, because they are the only thing that will bring change.

This is what politics has become, but this is not what it should be. Rather than discussing issues, we discuss why certain people are unsound based on disposition. And this robs us of the one thing we need most, unity. We speak of peace, yet shoot down ideas we that aren’t reminiscent of ours with bullets of prejudice, and so we forget that behind those words are people as real as you and I.

So take pride in your opinions, so long as they lead to intellectual pursuit; and that begins with understanding the alternate view.

We often seek to confirm what we believe, but maybe attempting to disprove what we believe will allow us to know the truth and where we stand in relation to it.

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