“Maybe I’m wrong.” Lately, I’ve been wondering how many Americans have ever said this to themselves, or to someone on the opposing side of an issue. Questioning myself and my beliefs for the sake of self-improvement is a part of my introspective nature, so it’s a phrase that I frequently hear in my head when I note my position on a matter.
Perhaps I was fortunate to be a middle child who felt it necessary to equally consider the perspectives of my conservative older sibling and my liberal younger sibling in order to achieve a sense of harmony. Despite the differing perspectives that were allowed to co-exist in my childhood home, I have an understanding of basic human rights that my parents instilled in me from the beginning of my life that I will never question. That foundation I was provided concerning respect for humanity and the world around me has made me secure in exploring ideas that affect people’s lives. The litmus test for what I believe in is how I perceive its effects on the overall well-being of people.
I’ve been accused of being opinionated. But, being open over the years to the possibility that I am wrong about ideas I have landed on regarding religious beliefs, political matters, or how to best address social issues, has allowed me to peacefully dialogue with people of differing views. The result is that my understanding about religion, politics, and social reform has greatly expanded as I have explored a broad spectrum of concepts throughout my life. Even if I don’t agree on a particular issue, I feel I can understand where many people are coming from and why they might feel the way they do.
I completely support every Americans’ right to their individual view on each topic. It’s part of what makes us a democracy instead of a dictatorship. I don’t expect anyone to share my views on everything; I don’t even expect my President to agree with me, except when it comes to human rights and basic principles of democracy. But I would appreciate it if my views could be respected and heard by those who oppose me instead of immediately being cast aside as the thoughts of an opponent. I wish that every person in the United States was capable of considering that they might not possess all of the accurate information on an issue, that their reflexive opinion might not be right. Doors to constructive dialogue would be flung wide open if we all inhabited that same mental space at the same time. My experience has been that openness to the idea of not being completely right brings with it a desire for more knowledge and a willingness to learn from people with differing views, especially if they are respectfully listening to my viewpoint. And that’s where progress begins. When progress occurs and growth becomes evident – in an individual’s life or in a society – who’s right and who’s wrong suddenly becomes irrelevant.
A partisan political approach over recent years has done little in terms of advancement of our nation. The main achievement of this method of interaction has been that of generating strong feelings of contempt for people who align with the “other side.” Respectful dialogue among people of opposing views is the only hope for our nation moving forward in a constructive way. Our country is currently self-destructing as opposing sides continue to dig in and cling to their opinions, while the needs of humanity are being neglected.
It should not matter who wins this political argument that is currently gripping our nation. What matters is how we succeed as people. America is currently failing on so many levels. Maybe we’re all wrong.
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© 2017 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
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