by Eleanor Clements and Camryn Parsons
When I was younger, I agreed with most everything my parents thought. As most kids do. My dad loved to express his political opinions but after he was finished, he would always say “I think this way, but you can think whatever way you choose based on your own thoughts and research.” As I got older I realized that I didn’t share all the opinions my family had, and they were okay with that. I encourage all of you to have this same mindset when thinking about and discussing last week’s assembly. Just as I don’t agree with everything my family thinks, you all do not have to agree with everything said in the assembly. There were a lot of uncomfortable topics, regarding politics, that were discussed and if you squirmed in your seat a little bit, know you were not alone. However, I encourage you to lean into your discomfort and embrace the things you think are difficult to understand because it can only create a better and more open-minded environment.
Often times at HB the perception is that everyone shares the same beliefs or ideas on certain topics. This idea is fueled by the speakers brought in, but I know for a fact that we have a very diverse environment and people’s opinions are constantly changing. At the risk of sounding too much like the brochure, we should be celebrating our differences because they make for a much richer and holistic learning environment that we can all benefit from. It is essential that we challenge ideas, but not at the expense of other people and their feelings. It is disrespectful and inappropriate to put someone in a box or attack them for their political beliefs. That goes for both sides. We need to learn to disagree with ideas, not people.
Not all Liberals supported Clinton. Not all Conservatives support Trump. At the end of the day, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum, we need to be respectful of others’ opinions and allow them the space to share said opinions.
Furthermore, I believe making assemblies that discuss different political perspectives optional would benefit nobody. Being uncomfortable is part of the process of learning and growing. Be okay disagreeing with the majority! Groupthink is not something we should encourage here at HB because our disagreements make us a stronger community! Even if your opinions are of the majority, recognize the other side and give them a chance to explain!
I would like to close by saying that it is such a joy to have friends from all sides of the political spectrum because their perspectives challenge and enrich my own. It is such a privilege to be friends with Camryn and although we might disagree on some things, we always listen to one another’s perspectives and are able to engage in civil discourse. Each one of us can be impactful both at HB and in the world, and it is our duty to express ourselves and utilize the platform we are given in a respectful manner. Respect people. Respect ideas.
In 2008 I was seven years old, very naïve, and for the first time ever very consciously watching my parents cast their votes in the presidential election. My sister and I would always ask him “are we democrat, or are we republican?” And my father’s answer was always the same. “I have my own views, but you are still figuring out yours. We don’t have to be the same.” My dad never rushed me in this process, never attacked me for demanding to know why he didn’t have the same views as my mom and sometimes voted for different candidates. He accepted me and embraced me wherever I was on the process to discovering my political identity and who I most supported. I felt like I lived in a time where I was able to learn. I was able to ask questions. I was able to change my opinions and listen to others in doing so. I am not sure this is the case anymore, but it should be, and it can be, and with enough effort, it will be.
For a period in my life I thought that a person’s political beliefs and who they supported defined what kind of person they are; how “good” they are. In reality, it is far more complex than this. During the time of the 2016 election, some political talk was beginning to stew at the gym my mother and I go to. I learned a lot about my trainer in the past two year controversy that makes a small part of me want to dislike him. He can not comprehend the degree to which racism still exists in our country nor see any problem with gun violence, carrying his own firearm with him in his car wherever he goes. We have had discussions that make me beyond frustrated.. Yet at the end of the day, I know there is a reason I do not truly dislike our different views. There is a reason I do not absolutely dread going to work out, and this is because of him. Despite us having near opposite political ideals, he is still one of the most genuinely kind, caring, and hardest-working people I know. And in the end, he would do whatever it takes to help an innocent person. While our political beliefs are a big part of who we are, they are not everything, and I want to be seen as more than my views on a handful of issues; we all do. I want also to be seen as a poetry lover, or a piano player, or a little sister. I am made up of more pieces and experiences than my political label. Besides, we are changing every day. I have personally seen so many people make progress in developing their own ideas, not just ones passed down on them by their parents or other integral systems in their lives. It is important to remember how we can learn from one other, as long as we are willing to listen. And as long as the one who is talking is not shutting out other voices by using their own. Outright hate and discrimination is never to be accepted, but a willingness to change and to learn is. There is a difference, and it’s as clear or as blurry as we make it. So if someone asks a question, answer it, because it means they are putting in an effort, which is far more than a lot of Americans are doing right now. It’s 2018 and a difficult time. But I still have hope. I still have hope because here I am, able work on something with my friend Eleanor, even though there are things we disagree on. Because both Eleanor and I care for our country and our friends, we are learning from each other in new ways. We are able to grow because of each other. Disagreement will never disappear, so if it is not harming an individual we need to embrace it. We need to embrace it and rise above our current leaders, because it is in our hands to move forward and change the world.