Your Opponent is Not Your Enemy

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Every day I see people insult each other on the internet. A day doesn’t go by where someone isn’t verbally or physically attacked for having a different belief than someone else. Most of the time it is due to opposing political beliefs, especially now when we are all so divided. How do we bridge the gap between our beliefs in order to come together as a stronger world community?

We need to talk about it:

In real life we often avoid those uncomfortable conversations. We are taught to be polite, and that in order to avoid confrontation we should evade certain topics, such as politics. Just don’t bring it up. But there has to be somewhere in the middle of hiding behind the internet and attacking each other, and skirting around having real conversations face to face. We need to express ourselves, but in constructive ways. Attacking someone for their point of view is not going to make them want to change over to your side.

We need to allow people to talk to us and show themselves, and express themselves without being condemned for their thoughts. This is how we build community; we need to see each other, and respect each other no matter how badly we disagree with their viewpoints.

“People don’t have to be bloodied for engaging in public space” ~ Melissa Harris-Perry

We need to listen:

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Acknowledge; even if it is painful. This is how we care for each other. You don’t have to agree with them. You are still you, just acknowledge that your opponent is not your enemy. We can’t all think the same way, and these are the people we can learn from. There are definitely some hateful extremists that are out there trying to get a rise out of people. Don’t take the bait.

Don’t hide behind an online persona, because there is only one you. Not the online you and the in person you; it is all you, so represent yourself in a way that is true. The world is connected through the internet, so show the best version of yourself.  This is how you can make positive connections with people who share your values.

“Liberals and conservatives must take the time to really listen to one another, to understand one another’s values and to think creatively about why someone with very different political and moral commitments from their own should nonetheless come to agree with them. Empathy and respect will be critical if we are going to sew our country back together.” ~ Robb Willer

Next time you encounter an uncomfortable topic, I encourage you to engage with the conversation, whether you agree or not, in a constructive way. Listen to each other. Try and understand why that person thinks that way, or what they are afraid of. You might find that a lot of those values cross over and that you have something in common. Through discomfort, we grow. Every voice counts and every single positive interaction online and in person helps to bridge the gaps between the ideas and beliefs that we think make us different from one another.

 

This blog is inspired by a talk by Melissa Harris-Perry.

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