Can We Handle The Other Side?

Rebecca Thaler, Contributing Writer

How does one separate the political sphere  from the personal? This is an age-old concept which seasoned debaters and politicians alike have been trying to master. Recently, I participated in a rather spontaneous debate that left me questioning how opposing views can productively engage in a thoughtful, respectful, and fact-driven debate rather than the huffing and puffing match I seemed to be a part of.


The debate I participated in centered around Muslim women and the role of the burka in their lives. On the surface, the debate broke down between two sides: the burka as a symbol of intolerance, and how we “shouldn’t have to tolerate that intolerance” opposing a view that believes the burka represents a conservative religious community that is deserving of its traditions and should not be questioned. But there was another issue at hand; concerning the actual notion of debate in itself. Tensions were high, students’ guards were up, and most of the class did their best to watch this debate, turned inaccurate political rhetoric, from the sidelines. This was a learning experience to say the least. My multiple “opponents’” obvious and loud disapproval concerning my positions felt unproductive and stagnant. I did my best to avoid eye rolling and sighing when I heard ludicrous and factually incorrect information, but did not seem to receive the same treatment. I try my best to be a fairly moldable person and believe in a philosophy of the ever-adapting human. I try to enter conversations with the mindset that if someone can factually persuade me in another direction, then I will try to honestly rethink my viewpoint. Stubbornness is the opposite of progress. Tolerance is key. Opposing views are healthy if you treat them as that, simply opposing. But when one takes it as a personal attack rather than a political debate that should be fact-driven, things get very messy, offensive, and hurtful. When name-calling replaces evidence, political grounds become shaky and Donald Trump becomes president.


Sometimes it can be hard to separate the personal from the political. We are not robots. Just like the majority of people, I have an emotional and passionate core, and that’s what makes us so political! We love high emotion politics, we love identity politics, we love anything that resonates with our personal identities. But I can also acknowledge that emotions can trap and isolate people therefore preventing our society from adapting. In this highly divisive time, simply judging politics off of instinct and emotion, rather than fact, limits us and allows us to turn our heads from the truth. It’s time to step away from emotional ranting and allow the truth to lead.