In the wake of this election, many people have created echo chambers in their lives. They have cut off anyone and anything that does not justify and reinforce their ideas. People have canceled subscriptions to newspapers that publish editorials they disagree with, ended lifelong friendships and removed people from their social media. I have seen this trend from both the left and the right in this country and, frankly, I am disgusted by it.
What is more offensive to me than somebody expressing their ideas in an editorial (which, by definition is biased because it’s somebody’s opinion) or a Facebook page or Twitter account is that some people want to live in an echo chamber to begin with. Echo chambers are the antithesis to progress. Shutting out ideas that you disagree with hurts you more than those who express these ideas. Many of my friends on both sides of the divide cut off all ties with anyone who did not agree with them politically. This, aside from making them look petty, also made them think that everyone believes what they do. When they inevitably encounter someone in the real world who held different beliefs, they react with disdain and vitriol, believing them to be an anomaly and an abomination.
I do not believe the notion that the people who voted for Trump are a bunch of redneck racists as many on the left have proclaimed. I also do not believe that those who are exercising their first amendment rights to express their negative opinions of republican politicians are guilty of treason as it seems many on the right believe. I understand that there were perfectly valid and legitimate reasons why people would have voted for either of the leading candidates because I make it a point to read news and social media posts from both sides. I have good friends on both sides of this debate and would never dream of cutting any of them of my life out because they disagreed with me politically.
I read articles from left-leaning publications such as The Washington Post and the New York Times, but also read the Wall Street Journal, The Blaze, Breitbart and other more conservative publications. The reason I do this is to allow me to see where each side stands on various issues and thus have a better, more rounded understanding of this country. It also allows me to test my own, deeply held beliefs and ideologies. Hearing an argument you don’t agree with is healthy. It helps you to question your own beliefs and be able to see if they stand up to scrutiny. It forces you to think about why you believe the things you do. If everyone around you always agreed with you, how would you know if you were actually correct in your thinking or if you simply believed it because it was constantly being reinforced by group-think?
Beliefs, when unchallenged are meaningless. If your opinions on what is right or wrong are so fragile that you cannot hear any dissenting opinions, then maybe you are not so sure in them at all. Maybe you need to take a hard look at why you believe them in the first place.
Furthermore, when you stifle someone else’s speech (or as we do now in our world, block it from your life), you are not only preventing them from spreading their message, you are robbing yourself of the ability to hear their message. We should all hear each other and listen to what the other has to say. If, after hearing it, you still disagree, then more power to you. You have proven that your idea stands up to dissent and rational argument. But unless you allow yourself to question your own beliefs, how will you know they are as strong as you think? If they go unchallenged, how can you claim your ideas are superior?
Free speech is important not only for the government to enforce, but also for all of us. Not only should we fight for our neighbor’s right to speak (no matter how unpopular), we should also be fighting for our right to hear them. Shutting out ideas you disagree with is about as un-American as it gets. Lets all make a better effort to defend these essential American values.