The Hate in Debate

All throughout the news coverage of the inauguration today I kept hearing the newscasters say how historical of a day it was.  I will admit that I have never watched an inauguration, and the only reason I saw/heard pieces of this one was due to my husband having it on TV.  I’m not sure if it is said every four years how historical of a day it is or if that phrase was unique to today.

In any case I will agree that history was made today.  A man whose main qualities seem to be arrogance and immaturity is now in charge of our country.  I’m not writing this blog to promote my views or spark controversy.  Rather I want to draw attention to something that has grown exponentially throughout the election season – the hatred within debating differences of opinion.

I remember the first time I watched the political debates on TV.  It was my senior year of high school, fall 2004, and I would miss the opportunity to vote by a few weeks given my birthday falls on Nov. 22nd.  Most of my classmates did not have the ability to vote either, but that did not stop us from turning our AP Chemistry class into a full blown debate zone.  There were only about 10 of us in that class, but 2 students became very passionate on the issues and were the key debaters given their strongly held opposite viewpoints.  Mr. Conley, being a genuine educator, allowed us to spend most of our class time the day after a debate aired discussing the various topics.  It was a very enjoyable and thoroughly educational experience.  At no point in time did anyone get nasty with each other, even the 2 who had the most heated exchanges.  The debates stayed in that classroom and when the bell rang we all rushed to lunch, taking with us expanded knowledge but never any resentment towards those with differing opinions.

In college I took a few philosophy courses and one was focused on contemporary moral problems.  Controversial issues ranging from the death penalty to abortion to stem cell research were discussed and debated.  One of the key elements to the class was formulating solid arguments, not just spewing personal opinions.  We were taught to find evidence that supported our viewpoints as well as learn the arguments of the opposing side.  There were some very opinionated and passionate people in that class and sometimes the professor had to interrupt, not because people were being disrespectful, but rather we would run out of time and need to move onto another issue.  Again we all left the class with more knowledge than we had when we arrived and no animosity towards anyone who argued the other side of an issue.

If high school and college “kids” could have civil debates with each other why does it seem adults find such difficulty in doing so now?  Is social media completely to blame due to it ease of attacking nearly anyone whether they be friend, family or complete stranger?  I have been utterly disgusted this week by the posts in my news feed from people on both sides of the political spectrum.  Not only is there a lack of respect for one another, but the full ignorance of the facts is appalling.

I do blame mainstream media for providing opinion based news rather than true fact based journalism, but everyone has the ability to research issues on their own.  I could also point out how often you see people arguing with one another on mainstream news shows with no respect for what another person has to say.  They talk over one another, they interrupt each other and worst of all they write off the other person’s views the moment they realize they are not in agreement.  This year’s presidential debates displayed much of the same behavior.  This just helps reinforce the idea that this is acceptable in debating with another person.

Am I irked by certain posts made by people with opposing viewpoints from my own?  At times and usually because I know they have done no research on the topic.  Do I feel an overwhelming need to attack them for it and try to force my thoughts upon them?  No.  My in depth political discussions are reserved for those who are close to me.  Those who respect me enough to not degrade me for simply not agreeing with them.  Apparently the vast majority of our society has not reached that level of maturity and decency that they feel the need to attack one another for no legitimate reason other than to reinforce their opinions.

If we are to truly “Make America Great Again” we need to start with learning how to decently communicate with one another.  To respect differences in opinion.  To not let one’s differing views define the relationship we have with them.  To stop disregarding what someone has to say the moment we detect they do not agree with us.  To act like civil human beings instead of self centered jerks.  To stop the hate when we debate.

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