I am more than my opinions

The dangers of disagreeing in a political dichotomy

By Matt Schuch | 11/11/15 9:35pm

About a week ago, I decided to write an opinion piece for the Lanthorn. I ended up shelving three different pieces for the same reason.

I didn’t want to lose any friends.

Politically speaking, I’m an independent. On top of this, I have liberal friends and conservative friends. However, as an independent, I don’t entirely agree with either side. I support LGBT rights and feminism and such because I believe everyone should be treated equally, but I don’t subscribe to the idea that you can’t be racist against white people, or sexist against men, etc.

So, I’m liberal and I’m not liberal.

I don’t support the idea of raising the minimum wage (at least not to $15) because it devalues some jobs and would only cause inflation, and yet I also don’t support defunding Planned Parenthood or many anti-immigration laws.

So, I’m conservative and I’m not conservative.

That means I can’t give an opinion on anything, because of how closely many people hold their opinions. To quote CGP Grey, an informational video creator on YouTube, “your identity should be separate from your opinions. They are objects in a box you carry around with you.”

However, for many, this is increasingly becoming not the case. I see many people who stop being friends with each other simply because of a difference of an opinion.

For example, as I stated, I support marriage equality. However, I have lost friends because of people who disagreed with me on that stance. And the reason I did not send in all of my articles was because I was worried that I would lose almost all of my strongly liberal friends, people I really do like being friends with because they’re kind.

This is the danger of the society we live in.

I can’t give my opinion on something because I’m afraid it will result in me being ousted by friends and others, resulting in me being left alone. I can’t have a difference of opinion without attacking someone personally. This doesn’t include obviously hurtful opinions, of course; if someone is being a racist or sexist or something similar, that’s different. But even normal opinions are considered contentious now.

Whether it’s about how people don’t laugh about enough things and get offended too much, whether or not racism includes white people, or the dangers of raising the minimum wage, no matter what I say, I’m going to lose.

When people hold their opinions so closely to themselves that it becomes part of who they are, then two dangers arise. The first is that, as I mentioned before, people disagreeing with you is seen as a personal attack. When your opinions are who you are, disagreeing with you becomes disagreeing with who you are. As such, when confronted with a view that goes against your own, you’re unlikely to even listen, and many people then look down on the person who disagreed.

“They must be stupid to not agree with me, right?”

This goes into the second danger; when your opinions are who you are, your opinions don’t change. Even when confronted with blatant evidence to the contrary, you won’t budge, because that would go against who you are at your very core. Or maybe it wasn’t blatant evidence; maybe you just saw something that changed your mind.

I know a guy who took a sociology class with me, and didn’t buy a word of what the teacher said, and just wrote what she wanted to hear. But then he saw something, and his opinion made a 180.

This is how people should be.

People should listen to differing opinions, and not be afraid to change their mind. I’m politically independent. I don’t toe the line. And because people treat their opinions as part of them, and not items they have, I have to watch what I say around people, or else I might end up alone.

Maybe someday that won’t be the case, and we can discuss our beliefs freely without the fear of losing friends or being ousted by society.

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