In the aftershock of the 2016 election, it is not surprising that the average, modern-aged American is taking to social media in order to rant and rave about the turnout of the event. Weeks later, these social-media driven rants continue. Whether rooting for Trump or Clinton, everyone appears to have extremely strong opinions on the subject. For instance, my newsfeed was bombarded by messages such as:
“The White House will finally be white again.”
“If you didn’t vote Hilary, you’re an idiot.”
“Trump is going to get rid of the Mexicans, finally.”
Following the umpteenth political post on my newsfeed, I began to notice a common thread: people tended to lash out at anyone who held a different or opposing view. Many a political post later, I came to the conclusion that differing Facebook posts often turned into all-out social media battles, leading me to counter with my own unfriend/unfollow binge. After washing my social media of friends I never knew I had, and friends I never knew held such hate in their hearts, the ease I felt lasted about five seconds.
After those five seconds passed, my first thought was, ‘How can I personally change these ignorant opinions?’
Then it hit me. Am I being just as ignorant by trying to get them to agree with me?
Now, more than ever, we have the opportunity to understand that we can hold different opinions, while still respecting one another. Respect is found not only when there is agreement, but when tolerance is embraced by all, no matter who the president is or what your political views consist of. There is never a time when it is okay to spew hate and ignorance at someone and try to justify that hate by claiming it’s your right to have an opinion.
Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, just like freedom of religion and assembly. All of these combined with the opportunity to hold a personal opinion are what I believe make this country a great one. We have the right to believe and say whatever the hell we want. On a moral ground, we do not have the right to belittle or disrespect someone else’s opinion. With great power comes great responsibility; with the power of free speech comes also the responsibility of respecting other people’s right to free speech. You cannot desire a basic human right, while denying another human of that very same right, simply because you do not agree with their beliefs.
If your opinion is only to negate someone else’s opinion in a callous and irreverent way, then that holds hate and ignorance: the very two things that we need to abolish in order to move forward as a country. Stating that you think grape soda tastes better than orange – that is an opinion. Stating that you believe someone doesn’t deserve the same rights as you based on their sexuality, gender, religion or economic standing, is not an opinion but hatred.
We can all have opinions, while realizing that not everyone holds the same opinion. We should strive to be a country of tolerance and acceptance. After all, this is meant to be the country of the brave and the free. The take-away from this election and from all of the commotion that followed is that we will be the death of our own nation until we can learn to respect one another.
The freedom and rights we take for granted cannot come at the cost of someone else being oppressed. Don’t hide hate behind an opinion. A true American knows and embraces the difference. The next time you declare an opinion, stop yourself before posting, and evaluate if you are coming from a place of true opinion or pointed spite. The two cannot co-exist.
This is the digital age. Do your research. Base your opinion off of something besides institutionalized racism, sexism and xenophobia. At the end of the day, this article may not reach millions of views, but if I can get you, dear reader, to stop and think about whether your opinions have been affected by spite rather than truth, then I will consider my job as a writer fulfilled. We have the ability to be the generation that changes American history for the better by uniting in empathy and mutual respect for our differences.