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By Brandon Abbs

You have to have respect for other people’s opinions; most people would claim to agree with this statement, or even think they agree with it. Yet, what I’ve observed through the idealistic battles that can’t be definitively won raging across the world, becoming even more potent  through the tool that is the Internet, whether they’re about gun control or the proper pronunciation of GIF, is that society has a long way to go for tolerance of the beliefs of others. What almost no columnist or average non-columnist Joe alike seems to realize is that their opinion on any given topic matters no more than that of anyone else, no matter how forcefully they voice it. Your shout into the void, your opinion, will not matter if you don’t allow other opinions to matter. My philosophy – you can respectfully disagree with someone else on a matter, but if you want your own argument to hold any validity, you cannot say to them, ¨Your argument is invalid.¨ You yourself have no reason to believe that your opinion is any weightier than that of someone else with opposing beliefs (it’s a very long philosophy). Opinions are subjective, and they should be treated as such. What makes your stance more valuable than the stance of someone else who thinks their stance is just as valuable? To pursue these thoughts of mine further (only my opinions, by the way), I sought out Mr. Holm, who teaches contemporary issues here at BHS. He had a lot to say about this subject, of course.

¨…Hard-line stances create division and intolerance and sometimes hatred.  This isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be differing opinions; there should be,¨ he told me. ¨…Democracy should be messy, but it is best when people are willing to deliberate to find the best course of action, not dig into a blinding hole, and stay there.¨

Diverging opinions on topics are necessary for the fair execution of anything; Mr. Holm here took it to a larger scale and interpreted them as the foundation of democracy, which they are. However, Holm makes the point clear that compromise is necessary, which it is. Compromise is the root of all long-term solutions, but to achieve it, one has to respect the opinions of the other parties.

¨ Empathize with others,¨ continued Mr. Holm. ¨Try to fully understand them and the situation. When we understand people, we can accept who they are.  Unfortunately this takes a lot of effort, and many people just aren’t willing to give it.¨

Empathy is one of the most powerful emotions, if not the most powerful emotion, that a person can have. Even if you don’t have it in a particular instance, though, which is quite common, you still must value the personal beliefs of others. Without doing that, you can fall into one of the simplest traps – confusing opinion for fact. Referring to your own opinion as fact while dismissing those of others as garbage is, regardless of what your argument is, hypocrisy that immediately detracts from the credibility of your statement that the best flavor of gummy bear is strawberry, even if that is the widely accepted viewpoint. Your opinion doesn’t matter without the validity of opposing ones being upheld.

I asked Mr. Holm about what we are doing here at BHS, specifically, to help others and ourselves look at things more objectively.

¨…I’m proud to be part of activities like the Access Toy Drive that the Baily family runs,¨ he said. ¨Our volleyball team Volleys for the Cure,  Key Club does food drives, etc.  All of these things help us understand the community around us better.  On top of it all, I think our Humanities Department has an obligation to teach what tolerance is. To develop deeper understanding.  If Democracy is about equal voice, how can you have it if you don’t tolerate, or at least listen to, other people’s views?¨

Obviously, as is ever exemplified through the burgeoning masses of hardline figures found in our multi-sided world, it’s not a simple task for one to acknowledge that they don’t know that they’re completely right. After all, the relentless lobbying for the ¨correctness¨ of one’s stances is the whole foundation the essence of opinion lies on. However, much is lost when you cling to one belief without considering that those of others could in any circumstance hold as much value.

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