We, as the human race, are a very safe species. We have many pre-determined judgments and biases, which we hold tightly. Rarely do we venture out of our intellectual safety net to explore and understand other perspectives. It is amazing that at such an early point in our educational career we have already determined the way we will be thinking for the rest of our life. I am not speaking about the institutional education we are currently receiving, but the life experiences that shape our beliefs. If you think about it, most of us have only been critically thinking about moral and social issues for maybe three to five years of our lives, yet many of us have unequivocally decided with 100-percent certainty exactly what we believe to be true. Like-minded individuals band together into liberals and conservatives and any exploration of alternative views ceases. Both groups begin to talk exclusively with their kind, which only reinforces the beliefs they already have.
Ross Nolan recently highlighted this (“Horowitz Haters Keep Parading Selective Moral Outrage,” Daily Nexus, May 14). He says, “The radical leftist professors on our campus who spew anti-Americanism daily do have this power, and they all too often abuse it.” This is a classic example of how people react to those who oppose their views. They shut down all critical thinking skills and revert to defensive tactics. Anything that their opponent says is wrong – no exceptions. However, it is these situations that hold the most promise for personal growth. Keeping an open mind when confronted with a view that directly opposes yours is not easy. Many times emotion overcomes rational thinking and separating the two becomes difficult. However, the only way substantial progress can happen in our society is if we constantly challenge our own beliefs. We must seek multiple perspectives to get a comprehensive view of an issue.
The only way any social issue can be dealt with is if both sides try to understand each other. American society will never agree on issues like abortion, the death penalty and wars, but we can at least attempt to understand the other side’s perspective. I enjoy watching Fox News. That’s right, I said it. I know many of you Democrats out there might have just dropped a lung. I don’t watch to obtain facts, but to try to understand the conservative point of view. There must be some reason that “The O’Reilly Factor” is the number-one news show on cable. Next time you guys are flipping through the channels, try to watch a segment of “Hannity & Colmes.” Don’t approach the situation thinking that it is going to be a bunch of conservative propaganda. Approach it as an opportunity to explore the other side. I also invite conservatives to try to listen to National Public Radio sometime. Every time you are in a situation with someone who has an opposing view, do not approach it as a defensive battle, but as a unique opportunity to increase your intellectual depth.
Exposing yourself to opposing beliefs is a requirement for any meaningful intellectual growth. I would say that most of my views fall into the liberal side, but some of the most interesting events I have attended on campus featured conservatives. The lecture given by George Will, a conservative political commentator, caused me to completely re-evaluate my view of what should be done to fix the health care system. I know you liberals reading this might find this hard to believe, but, yes, conservatives can make some very convincing arguments. I came away from the event with a much broader perspective on many social issues that were discussed. We must defy the human instinct to surround ourselves with those that are similar and seek out those that are different!
So all of you Republicans and Democrats out there, I hope you at least consider what I am saying. It is very easy to draw the battle lines between both groups, but when it comes down to it, we are all citizens of this world and if we are going to prosper as a global society, we must try to understand each other in hopes of a more peaceful and productive future.