Scouring through posts on Facebook is a common trend in today’s world. Depending on the news of the day, oftentimes themes quickly emerge that dominate others. Recently, two themes have defined Facebook “surfers’” daily views of information, especially those living in metro-Detroit: Detroit Tiger baseball and politics.
The Tiger posts are understandable. Having a team this close to clinching a World Series championship is exciting – given that it will be the first championship our city has seen in four years. It appears critical attention is being turned to the political posts of the day, and this concerns me.
For example, someone posted “Obama is from Kenya” on my Facebook. I corrected them and referred to a fact-checking site. They then post something like “Your opinion isn’t going to change my opinion, so you might as well just keep it to yourself.”
Oh how I tremble at the thought of keeping our opinions to ourselves.
Look folks, this isn’t some reality-show competition here. This isn’t some vast galaxy far, far away either. I’m sorry those political posts are jeopardizing your latest game of “Farmville” and preventing you from seeing somebody’s “duck face,” but what’s happening in America affects each of us, and I believe the last thing we should be doing is keeping our opinions to ourselves.
I recently read a very good article written by Patrick Stokes, a lecturer in philosophy at Deakin University in Australia. In the article he explains that the first thing he tells his philosophy students is even though the “everybody is entitled to their own opinion” argument is used to close out contentious debates among those who differ on issues, in his class, everybody is not entitled to their own opinion. Instead, everybody is only entitled to the opinions they can back up.
This is an important distinction. As we wind down this election season, people of all different political persuasions are going to have different angles of how they view the candidates and the issues. However, to simply end a good, rational political discourse with stating “everybody is entitled to their opinion,” or “let’s just agree to disagree,” in fact, endangers the very political process itself.
Those who complain that Facebook and Twitter are not appropriate places to have such conversations are wrong.
Those who state this isn’t the time or the place to debate politics have a flawed rationale. If we can’t have such open and honest debates where two sides can present rational, fact-based arguments in the hopes that coming out of the discussion they both may have learned something more, then when is it appropriate?
Political discourse is what makes America unique. Political discourse is what allows us to have free elections where the people can choose their elected leaders. But, if the people are not willing to engage in a political discourse where they may be told something they do not agree with, even though it may be factually correct, then as a country we have all lost. Then as a country, only a select few will ultimately decide our fate – and whatever that fate may be is what we deserve.
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