In these recent, tumultuous years that have led to a Trump presidency and the general subsequent chaos, people have, for lack of a better word, become violent. Now, while there is arguably an epidemic of physical violence happening in the U.S. and abroad, that is not the violence to which I refer; I am talking about the violent opinions that have emerged from what seems like nowhere.
There have always been overly passionate people in the world and especially in the field of politics, but in the U.S., there used to be a larger concentration of apathy. Now, it seems like literally everyone and their grandmother is an expert on every single topic of conversation/everything in the world. (The irony that I am writing this piece about misguided opinions is not lost on me, but let’s continue, shall we?)
See what I did there? Even I, in this very piece, committed the most treacherous of crimes. I said that these opinions were “misguided”. What I meant to say was that they are wrong. It is very unlikely that your Uncle Bob, the republican mechanic from South Carolina, is right when it comes to issues of international diplomacy. Just like how your cousin Sarah, the Ivy League hippie with a heart of gold from upstate New York, probably is wrong when it comes to realistic gun reform and/or agricultural subsidies. And you know what? That’s 100 percent fine.
We can’t all know everything, let alone think that we are some kind of subject matter expert on every subject. But the current sociopolitical climate has inspired just that type of thinking. What’s worse is that the rise of “alternative facts” is very real. It started out innocently enough with our friend Kellyanne Conway doing her best to clean up after the mess of a president that is Trump, but now, it is no longer a joking matter. People think that all sources are created equal. People think that because the president speaks off the cuff and without any evidence to support his claims that they too can do the same, and I mean, why not? Trump is “the most powerful man in the world” right now, so we should just follow his lead, right?
At this point, you should know that my last sentence was dripping with sarcasm, but in case you did not pick up on that, let me clarify it for you. We should absolutely not follow his lead. Why? Because he is wrong; he just is. Yes, I am very liberal, and yes, I despise most parts of the Republican ideology, but I have met and know that there are decent Republicans and conservatives out there. I know that there are Republicans who have done their research and who have been able to form an educated opinion on a variety of issues. I do not agree with them, but I understand the theoretical argument from the other side. That being said, Trump et al. are not these people. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, let’s say that their opinions are based on some kind of evidence; well, it has been proven time and time again that that evidence is unreliable. In an interesting move, Wikipedia, perhaps one of the most unreliable sources in existence, has deemed the Daily Mail — a right-wing “news source” — as unforgivably unreliable. And like I mentioned before, this is the best case scenario. However, I don’t know if I can give the “Alternative Facts Crew” even that much credit, because most of the time, their very public decrees are just problematic opinions coming from the people at the top.
No matter how wrong people may objectively be, I would never tell people that they were somehow forbidden from expressing their opinions on any issue. What I am asking for is that people have the wherewithal to realize that hey, these actual, degree-holding, experience-having experts in this field might actually know more about intergalactic particle diffusion than I do — I should listen to what they have to say. Honestly, I am not even sure if the aforementioned topic is “a thing”, but it doesn’t have to be about intergalactic particle diffusion. It is something as simple as listening to what respected scientists have to say about climate change because they know more. It’s as simple as believing people of color when they say institutional racism and its effects are still very, very present. It’s as simple as not being adamantly inflexible when the erudite professionals among us tell us otherwise.
So yes, you’re wrong, or you could be wrong, and I could be wrong too, but we as a society need to be aware of that possibility so we can progress. I understand that no one wants to be wrong, and that it can be uncomfortable to be presented with information that could be contrary to something you hold ideologically dear, but I challenge you to do so. I mean what’s the worst that could happen? Trump is already president. Nazis are making a comeback, and the prison-industrial complex has created modernized slavery. So tell me, what do you have to lose?