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Where Speech is Free But Your Opinions Don’t Count

Lauren Quigley
Jun 9, 2015 · 3 min read

I was going to write about something important to me a few weeks ago, but then I checked Facebook.

The Baltimore riots, Bruce Jenner and related trans topics, the gay marriage debate, articles about feminism, politics, poverty, racism, ablism, ethnocentrism, and other -isms I didn’t even know were a thing until the past two years or so.

I listen to a lot of podcasts, read lots of articles, and generally try to stay on top of our ever-changing world on a daily basis. I purposely don’t stick to one set of sources with one point of view, and genuinely appreciate learning about the whole spectrum of views that are different from mine. Being told I’m wrong doesn’t scare me or piss me off — tell me why and I’m more than happy to listen. (I may still disagree with you, but I won’t dispute facts or let our differences define our friendship!)

I’m not the kind of person to even step into a discussion without being reasonably well-informed, but by the time I get to the point of finally speaking instead of just listening, I’m exhausted.

When did it become the norm to tear apart people with different opinions? I don’t mean their arguments — by all means, PLEASE equip yourself and debate as much as you want — I mean the actual people. Many blame it on the internet and “distance” of being able to type a comment instead of saying it to someone’s face, and I’m sure that’s a large part of it, but I’ve seen those fights erupt outside of comment threads, too.

There’s almost no such thing as a respectful, intelligent debate that sticks to the issue at hand and doesn’t devolve into name-calling and forever looking down on the other person as an inferior idiot. It’s such a frequent occurrence now that most of us just shrug and move on.

But what else happens? The people who would respectfully talk about the important things just don’t even bother, and I know I’m not the only one.

When did it ever become okay to tell someone they don’t even have a right to an opinion? Unless I am in absolute agreement with the “correct” opinion (and who defines that, anyway?), my perspective doesn’t matter. My perspective is considered part of “the problem,” and assumptions fly all over the place like bees in an Oprah gif.

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Because I’m white, I can’t talk about Baltimore or ethnic tensions.

Because I’m middle-class, I can’t possibly understand anything about poverty.

Because I’m a straight woman who also presents as female, I can’t talk about any of the questions surrounding same-sex relationships, transgenderism, or anything in between.

At least the feminists would bother talking to me, right? Well, only the ones who would still consider me a feminist even though I’m pro-life and a Christian. (So you know, not many.)

I’m not a fan of labels, for myself or anyone else. And I’m not writing all this to be labeled as a poor little privileged girl who just wants an audience for her soapbox. I’m writing this as one of many people who are just plain tired, and to reach out, pat you on the back, and let you know you’re not alone.

It’s okay to be overwhelmed by the general suck all over social media and throughout humanity. We don’t have to declare our opinion on every single issue or get sucked in to every argument.

Just don’t give up. Keep your open mind, keep educating yourself, and have the humility to be wrong sometimes. But above all, don’t believe anyone who tells you that you don’t have a right to your own opinion.

Is that really something we have to be reminded about?

A group of peers strike out into the world to learn…

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