Differences don’t have to be divisive

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Opinions — we all have them.

They can be great tools for fueling passions, finding your personal morals and connecting over shared interests with friends.

In fact, more often than not, every person has an opinion on everything they know about. Those pesky thoughts are always lingering in the back of our minds when we talk, read and hear others’ opinions.

But more often than not, especially recently, we’ve been using our personal views for the wrong reasons.

We have let them divide us rather than encourage thoughtful discussion that may serve to unite us.

Rather than seeking out our commonalities, we are using our opinions to completely divide our nation.

Whatever our political leanings, food tastes and even TV show preferences, our country is incredibly divided, possibly the most it’s ever been.

It’s unfortunate, really.

One of the best feelings in the world is being wildly passionate about a show/book/song/political figure/food dish/pet so that when you find someone else with equal interest, you immediately bond over it.

For instance, I love the Harry Potter book and movie series. When I first met one of my best friends a few years ago for the first time, I asked her what she was interested in. When she started talking about her love of all things related to Harry Potter, I’m sure my face lit up and I became unable to slow my speech as I was excited to chat about this with a fellow series-lover.

When I was in middle school, another best friends and I immediately united over our shared love of music, and we’ve been friends ever since.

It is simple things like music and books that make it easy to find common ground with someone and build a relationship from it that’s usually positive.

So why do we tend to head the other way and try to find our differences first?

Politics can be a messy subject, I know. But why do we stop listening and become argumentative after finding out the other person we’re engaging with aligns with an opposing political party?

I wish someone could tell me why they do this. It seems unnecessary, rude and a waste of time. If I share my beliefs with another person and the first thing they do is call me names, yell at me or dismiss me, I promise I will not decide to “see the light” and join them.

At Appen Media, we often receive emails, social media posts and phone calls about columns carried in our papers. We wonder if the reader overlooked the simple heading at the top of the page that says “opinion” when they question our biases, agendas and facts.

See, as a newspaper, we know our job is to report just the facts and let our readers decide what their opinion is on the topic.

Sometimes we get heated about an issue and want to share our own opinions, as I’m doing in this opinions column now.

The problem arises when the person absorbing our opinions doesn’t respect our own rights to also have an opinion. We don’t try to play the columns off as “news.” Instead, we title the page “opinions,” use first person and try to not cross any lines between reporting and opinion.

Still, the messages get lost repeatedly.

One of our interns bravely shared her opinion on a recent story that was making national headlines. The backlash she received was astounding. Not a single response had constructive criticism, and most resorted to calling her young and therefore dumb.

That’s fine if that’s your opinion. You have every right to think how you want. But why not try to encompass those feelings into something that can be useful for everyone?

We all have our own opinions, so why don’t we express them in a constructive way. Just because we have a strong opinion, doesn’t mean it’s the end-all, be-all or that’s it’s even a fact.

Those opinions that are so cruel don’t actually reflect on the person it’s about, but instead about the person who said it.

But hey, that’s just my opinion.


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