Without basic respect, opinions are not valid

Without basic respect, opinions are not valid

The current state of public discourse in this country is fractured at best, and if you judge things based on The Crimson White’s comment section, you may just think that things are at an all time low. The differences between the current presidential candidates (and the people that support their respective campaigns) make Obama and Romney seem like old pals, and this polarization seems to be here to stay. In the past few years a disturbing trend has emerged — instead of responding to differing opinions with actual counterpoints, lots of people just dismiss the argument as evidence of P.C. culture or with some variation of a “safe space” insults. The newest swear word is actually a two-word phrase — political correctness — and those associated with it are routinely dismissed without consideration of what they are saying. Somehow, a principle that merely means “respect for other people” has turned into a disqualifying feature for seemingly half the nation. 

It is vital to try to understand and to respect the opinions of those that you disagree with in an argument, but that principle does not apply to those whose opinions are rooted in an attitude that doesn’t respect other people. For example, there can be a reasonable debate on specific immigration policy, and people who disagree ought to respect one another. But when someone calls Mexicans rapists, accuses them all of bringing crime and drugs when they come to our country, and appears to be motivated by a racist lack of respect for an entire group of people, that position deserves no respect. So no — the problem in America today isn’t political correctness — it’s that complete, selfish disregard for people who are different than you has become a mainstream, accepted position, and its no longer taboo to voice these opinions in public. There’s a false equivalency between those that complain about “P.C. culture,” as if it’s a legitimate position, and the rest of us. Without a basic respect for people, your opinion isn’t actually valid.

Arguably, most of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign’s appeal is rooted in his self-imposed persona of disregarding political correctness. It’s no coincidence that the most toxic parts of American society fall under the umbrella of his supporters. Most of his voters are decent people, but the prevalence of bigotry in Donald Trump’s supporters is obvious; David Duke, the former KKK leader, openly supports Trump, and the rise of the so-called “Alt-Right,” a racist subgroup that is usually relegated to the darkest depths of the internet, has been noticeable, and it’s no coincidence that this is happening at the same time as Trump rises in the polls. At a September 9th meeting of prominent white nationalist groups in downtown Washington, D.C., just blocks from the White House, entitled “What is the Alt-Right?,” they acknowledged that they had been “riding [Trump’s] coattails” and discussed their “pro-white” political agenda moving forward.

It’s impossible to have a legitimate public debate about the important issues of our time when such a significant portion of the people involved are refusing to acknowledge the basic human dignity of so many people. These types of people have taken the Republican Party hostage, and everyone in America ought to be afraid of what that means for our future.

Kyle Simpson is a senior majoring in biology. His column runs biweekly.

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