President Donald Trump signed an executive order last Friday barring all immigrants and visa holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days and all refugee admissions for 120 days. Many of us responded in some manner on social media — after all, this was an action that prevented many students at American universities from returning to the country, something that hits close to home for Truman students. Maybe you posted an article to inform friends, shared a live stream of protesters or provided information about how to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union. In the typical fashion, maybe you received a response on one of these posts from someone who disagreed with you — or maybe you responded to someone else’s post to share an opposing view.
This type of dialogue ensures we, as citizens, are as informed as possible about every side of the complicated political issues Americans faced the past few weeks. However, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of outrage, disbelief or confusion and lose sight of what should be our goal.
We, the Truman Media Network editorial board, urge everyone to be conscious of the best way to frame an argument regarding a conflict such as the recent immigration and refugee ban. It’s too easy to let a discussion spiral into a circular string of back-and-forths about who’s right and wrong. Just as the goal of a democracy isn’t for one person to best their opponent and lord over us all, the goal of this discourse shouldn’t be to declare one’s self the winner — it should be to find out more about opinions different than your own in order to better your understanding of what’s going on.
We must be open to hearing the other side. It is crucial, especially considering the current political climate, to not succumb to the ease of remaining within your information bubble. Don’t close yourself off to views that don’t agree with your own, and by the same token, don’t make a claim without backing it up. If you agree with something or earnestly believe something, explain why that is. If you’re against something or don’t understand it, give your opinion about why that is or ask for some clarification. It’s up to us to be the catalysts, not only of others’ knowledge, but also of our own.
Most importantly, we, the Truman Media Network editorial board, cannot stress enough how imperative it is that everyone maintains an air of respect when engaging with others, regardless of whether it’s in person or on social media. Too often, we see fallacious attacks on the character of all supporters of a particular candidate or issue, instead of a valid argument against the candidate or issue itself. If you don’t like the new immigration policy, argue against it, not against the good character of your Facebook friend who supports it. If you aren’t happy with the job our legislators or new president have been doing, argue against them instead of calling the character of the people you know who support them into question.
When it comes to supporters of a candidate or issue, the odds are they have a good reason for doing so. Why not find out why? Having a clear, respectful conversation can help you understand where people on one side or another are coming from and subsequently allow you to take those views into account when you consider alternatives to a policy you think needs a replacement or who to vote for in the next election.
Shouting into the void isn’t a productive way to do this, nor is assuming everyone who has an opinion that doesn’t match yours is a bad person. It’s up to all of us to ensure that we’re as informed as possible about every issue we scroll past on our social media feeds.