I was always told that the three things you should never discuss in polite company are sex, politics and religion. However, I think those are actually the three things we should discuss more than anything else.
Sex, politics and religion are the most polarizing topics during the rare conversation about any of the tumultuous three. Bringing up sex can cause a lot of awkward shuffling because most have never discussed it with anyone, even though it’s in almost every piece of popular media. Politics goes back to the roots of the two-party system and how any problem can only be solved either the Democratic or the Republican way –– and any grey area is the dangerous purgatory of compromise.
And of course religion, being the dearest to us, is generally the topic which can end friendships and families when disagreed upon. Conversing about any of these topics doesn’t have to be about attacking and defending, but rather, it should be about a mutual sharing of ideas.
For our society to start discussing and having real conversations again we need to first start to realize that people have varying opinions, but these opinions do not necessarily infringe upon your right to thought. Just because your friend wants to vote for Ron Paul and you are a die-hard Obama fan doesn’t mean you should stop talking to him about your political beliefs. In fact, when someone disagrees with you, you need to find out why, because living in a bubble where everyone agrees with you will only cause your beliefs to become more radical and narrow-minded.
Rational and coherent discussion is what built this country, literally. The founders sat in a room and discussed how best to govern a country, and they disagreed on many fundamental aspects of governance. But opinions and values we hold dear should be the same ones we are most willing to question and debate over.
If the opinion holds any validity, you should be able to defend, change and adapt it to an ever varying onslaught of counter-points. For you to truly understand your own feelings, you must also understand the antithesis of those feelings. A balanced opinion will take into account the validity of others’ opinions and be better because of it. A world with no compromise is a world where the Cold War would have ended with a nuclear bomb rather than a sledgehammer.
Better conversation about politics and religion will also lead to better understanding of each other. So often I see people stop talking about an issue because they find out they disagree, but that should be the cue to figure out why you disagree. Because more often than not, you will realize that you agree more than disagree –– and that it is just the polarizing nature of our two-party system and absolutist religious thought that make it difficult to see any middle ground.
Once we realize how much middle ground we have as a nation, the hate of compromise might stop and actual progress may become the norm.
Our views of politics and religion are, by and large, set in stone, but our relationship with sex as a nation is all over the place.We are bombarded with hypersexualized imagery from a very young age, and yet we are told by almost every influencing force that it’s wrong, dangerous and we shouldn’t do it.
These mixed messages create a constricted environment for the young, who are confused about their own thoughts. This is one of the reasons why most people have such a narrow view of sexuality and exhibit unsafe behavior, not to mention dissatisfaction with it all together.
Opening a conversation about the dangers –– as well as the ways to minimize these dangers –– and the pros, as well as the cons, to sexuality would create a more loving and open environment where people would not have this great divergence in thought where no middle ground is allowed.
We need to start having conversations again as a people. I am tired of my entire correspondence with people involving acronyms, and as soon as something interesting –– politics, sex or religion –– is brought up, everyone either leaves or opens their mouths and closes their ears.
Hearing others’ beliefs is essential to a rational society, and it may even solidify your own beliefs as you realize how absurd others’ attitude really is. So, next time someone interrupts your re-runs of Tosh.0 with an actual conversation, take a minute and actually engage them.
Jefferson Freeman is a senior economics major. His column appears every other Monday in the Collegian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.