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A Student’s Take On Diversity of Thought

By David L. Hawkins, III / Published on Wednesday, 17 Apr 2019 13:07 PM / No Comments / 86 views

My political journey began during my freshman year, while the 2016 election was in full swing. This was my first time ever paying attention to politics in any way. As a younger kid, I knew who the president was. I remember mock elections in elementary school where my elementary school in Florida, Mary Giella Elementary, overwhelmingly elected Barack Obama. Throughout middle school, I had absolutely no connection to politics or political discussion. My parents, for the most part, did not raise me with any sort of political orientation. Living in the south, they had some unconscious republican leaning, but they never explicitly forced me into any sort of political ideology.

As I grew politically I went through all of the confusing labels come with politics. Many people see just liberal democrats and conservative republicans. The fact of the matter is this binary system fails to explain most individual political thought. Not everyone votes a straight ticket every election. Not everyone just shrugs off third party options. Not everyone is afraid of stepping out of part lines.

I have voted in three elections thus far; the 2018 primaries, a runoff, and the general midterms. Have I voted for republicans? Yes, most of my choices were republicans. Have I voted for a third party option? Yes I did.

I would like to believe that I am someone who is open to having healthy, open discussions about important issues that we face. I have a friend who is your typical pro-Trump republican. I have a friend who is a rather cynical, atheistic right-learning republican. I have several socialist liberal friends and other liberal friends who are most capitalist. I have friends from different background that lean a different way than you may think. I have a friend who is from Pakistan. He is a conservative. I have a friend who just recently became an American citizen after immigrating here from Mexico as a kid.  He is a conservative. I have rich and poor friends who are liberal. I have rich and poor friends who are conservatives. I have spoken with Green Partiers and libertarians and everyone in between.

Political discussion can be scary, but it doesn’t have to.

This is diversity of thought and it is both ugly and beautiful. While we allow people to believe different things, there are some awful thoughts out there. An article from The Root calls diversity of thought ‘a euphemism for white supremacy.

The writer of this article misses a very important point about diversity of thought. He defines it as “the de facto pushback for white people whenever anyone dares to mention including more women and people of color.” The fact of the matter is that there are some people that use the term this way. This article generalizes an extremely complicated concept. It ignores that this criticism acts as if anyone who brings up diversity of thought is merely giving an excuse to exclude women and people of color. What many people actually mean is that looking at an outwardly diverse setting means nothing when all of those outwardly diverse people are not inwardly diverse. What I mean to say is that being a certain gender or a certain race should not turn you into a token for business to use a s away to spout their diversity. You don’t have to be a liberal or a conservative based upon outward characteristics you did not choose. Outward diversity is meaningless if no one possesses inward diversity. What moves us forward is our individual thoughts, not being born into a certain role.

When there are people who appear to be genuinely scared of diversity of speech or free thought, it is fairly easy to become cynical about the state of political discourse. Yes, there is a whole ton of toxicity and polarization to go around. This exists on both sides. Anti-fa and the alt-right show us this.

I asked for some of my followers on Instagram to let me know in their words how they feel about those that disagree with them politically and having friends that disagree with them politically.

“I personally have far more appreciation for someone who can engage in debate or communicate their ideas while remaining respectful and understanding of someone else’s views. I have no time for someone that aims to “always be right” or wants to polarize the other side, even if I agree with them on many ideas. I think that there should be more effort from people on both sides of the political spectrum to understand the viewpoints of their opposites and try to find common ground. Especially nowadays. Just my two cents.” – Zachary Urban

Urban is exactly correct when he talks about those that always have to be right. It is extremely difficult to have a productive discussion with someone who can’t even find common ground. One of Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 rules is to “assume the person you are listening to knows something you don’t.” There are so many people out there who listen for their chance to speak, rather than actually listening.

“I never let political views get in the way, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and diversity is what makes us great. If I had only liberal friends, things would be boring. There’s no reason for disliking someone because of things like that.” – Rylei Powell

Powell notices the beauty of diversity of thought. Having all of your friends believe the exact same thing is extremely dull. You have the same conversations and you almost always have the same or similar ideas. I absolutely love having friends who are different than I am. I absolutely loving having outspoken friends whom I can respect for their differing views and they can respect me for my differing views.

“A lot of my friends and even my best friends disagree with my political views. I think the difference is when we disagree on something we really care about. All of my friends disagree with me on my view of abortion and because it is something that I care about, my emotions get to me. Generally, I try to stay away from political discussions with my friends that affect my emotions or theirs because my friends are my family and I respect our differences in all aspects.” – Sloane Belue

As Belue brings up, it is perfectly normal to get heated by certain issues that you care deeply about. You can avoid having these discussions if you do not feel as if you can a beneficial conversation with certain people. That is always an option. You can know where you stand and your friends can know where they stand. Politics does not have to be something that creates rifts between people.

“My political views may be different but it does not affect my view of you. You are a highly intelligent individual and you show an understanding to those who disagree with you which is very respectful. – Nathan Roper

Roper’s response is more personalized towards me but his description is something I strive for. I want to be a person who is viewed as being knowledgeable about what I talk about even if you may not fully agree with my stance on the issue.

“I am totally for being friends with people who have different political views than me.”– Brandon Gomez

This is a simplistic response but it shows an attitude that I believe everyone should adopt. We need to see having friends who disagree with us on particular things as being a good thing rather than something to be fearful of.

All of these responses are accurate to the statements I received from each individual. There was only slight editing for grammar and spelling. Otherwise, the meaning of each response should have remained intact.

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