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Learning to be Uncomfortable

By: Brian Juma

Zachary Wood, an author and former president of the student group Uncomfortable Learning at his alma mater, Williams College, has gained a reputation nationwide as an outlier. His love of dialogue came from his mother. As a child, he heard of affirmative action for the first time from his friends. Not knowing enough about the topic, he took this information back home. When he asked his mother about it, he expected to hear her perspective.

However, his mother made sure that her son knew the opposing views on affirmative action. She wanted her son to know about all aspects of life. Aspects that would help him grow into an intelligent young man.

College students have been uncomfortable with radical activists visiting their campuses. However, listening to opposing views can help us all understand each other.

For example, Ann Coulter, a staunch conservative and supporter of Trump, has fully supported the Muslim ban, family separation on our Southern border, and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. While liberals disagree with her, they shouldn’t distance themselves from her. Isolating ourselves from other people will only make the political climate worse. Therefore, radical ideologists should be given the platform to discuss their ideas.

The United States has been politically divided for most of its existence. Politics infringe on every aspect of life; it seems impossible to avoid.

On a cold January day in 2017, everything changed. Donald Trump was sworn in as president. Talking to our friends and family about politics has been even worse than before. We can’t communicate with our own bloodline without insulting or berating them. America under Trump’s watch has been more polarized than ever. Thanksgiving dinners have been ruined because of a small mention of Trump. Lifelong friendships have ended because of a fundamental difference of opinion.

Woods, a defender of free speech, believes communication between friends and family is the only medicine to cure the polarization that exists today. Two people having a mature conversation about Trump seems impossible today.

Wood’s philosophy about free speech is much like mine. Free speech can often be disrespectful and almost always controversial; however, it should be acknowledged and should never be misused. Free speech can often be hard to swallow, but it’s necessary to keep democracy functioning the right way.

We as a country have decided that our personal feelings hold much more value than the truth. The Democratic party under Trump’s reign has gotten too fragile. They have gone from “the party that protects people to the party that protects feelings.”

Bill Maher explains on his show frequently that too often Democrats demand an apology for no reason simply because their feelings were hurt over the truth. Woods, who holds free speech among his main virtues, is correct in that free speech should be used to bridge the divide.

There are many controversial figures in politics today. Their rhetoric is almost inconceivable to most. They are shunned from universities simply because their viewpoints are different.

Colleges and universities are deliberately setting limits on their student’s education. By doing that, students around the country are entering a world that their not prepared for. There are many members of the current administration who I really don’t care for; on the other hand, by not listening to their opinions I am committing a great disservice to our country. Isolating them from society doesn’t solve any problems.

Freedom of speech is what makes this country so unique. The fact that all people can share their opinions should be cherished, not abused. Unfortunately, free speech around the world can get you jailed or executed; but in the United States it can make you immortal.

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