Respect, dialogue and understanding

By Hadija Gabunga

I have never been one too shy to express my opinion. But after surveying my surroundings,
I worry that if I ever mention God and sodomy, free will and abortion, penis and anything else related to the male gender in the same sentence, I’ll have tomatoes thrown at me.

Can we not explore or discuss certain subjects? Or are some people’s perceptions so distorted they lack the rationality, objectivity and ability to understand things they read? What happened to the legitimacy of informed opinion?

Take race and racism for example. I’ve been brought up to believe
that regardless of your biological ethnicity no one owes you anything. I am a certain colour, and my ancestors suffered through slavery and colonialism. Does the system "owe" me something because of their past? Considering the effect that perception will have on my "brothers," I just let it slide. Because when it comes down to it, I don’t want anyone–black or not–beating down my door for having a different understanding of our history.

Criticism is apparently just too hard to swallow. You can’t fully explore any issue without stepping on someone’s toes. Take religion, for example. Whether you are Christian, Muslim or Jewish, when you express views on any subject you have to be subtle, sweep some things under the rug and make sure you don’t offend anyone. I can have a well-informed and educated opinion, but if it is not understood and accepted by the masses, it is apparently better left unexpressed.

If I were to say the concept of true communism is pure genius, would I be banned from voting or partaking in any other Western, liberal practices? If someone cannot grasp or even explore the notion that freedom, in the liberal sense, could merely be an illusion, they should wile the hours away watching Dr. Phil and Oprah.

Depending on what television network you watch, most views will be highly biased and fragmented. While I don’t take everything I watch on television with a grain of salt, I worry when abortion, let alone capital punishment, gets pushed aside because of someone’s religious beliefs. Educated opinions, whether they are radical or not, still inform. I worry we become less and less informed because of our personal beliefs and our closed mindset.

You don’t have to accept or agree with an opinion as it is just that, an opinion. But God forbid my opinion offend someone brought up to believe my place as a woman is in the kitchen.

We all have certain beliefs and values that shape who we are and the opinions we hold. Inevitably there will be conflict, but I can still lend an ear and try to understand someone else’s point of view-regardless of my personal beliefs. If I couldn’t and I simply dismissed their opinion, that would only prove me as ignorant as the next bigot.

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