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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

There is a lot of political news going on right now. You could say that about the whole year, but it seems that in the last few days there have been protests and protests of those protests. There have been things signed and things allegedly signed. There has been praise of the protests and criticisms of the protests. There has been praise of the signed things and also criticisms of those same signed things. It’s an information overload.

Usually when newsworthy things happen, we take a stance, where we post relevant articles on Facebook and retweet whatever celebrity or journalist has the wittiest thing to say about the stance — or where we keep our thoughts to ourselves but acknowledge the idea. But we still nod in approval and like the posts. These days, it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t have an opinion on a specific issue. It’s becoming more rare to find someone who isn’t grounded in their own opinion.

Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sticking to your gumption can be a good thing. Fighting for what you believe in can be a good thing. These are all traits we are told to aspire to. Find what you believe in, and then stick to it and never back down. The heroes in our fiction often fall in this category, blazing through the arc of their stories, following their moral high path and trying to get others to follow their beliefs. And we all want to follow in the path of Superman or Captain America — determined do-gooders, urging other determined do-gooders.

The thing is that in real life, it’s a bit stupid to defend everything with a Captain America-like zeal.

It seems almost expected these days to have an opinion on every hot button issue. It’s like checking off boxes: pro-life or pro-choice? Republican or Democrat? States’ rights or federal government’s rights? Does climate change exist or is it a hoax? Intervene in international affairs or mind our own business? That’s just scratching the surface. If you don’t have a full checklist, people turn their noses up at you. And it’s not just having that full checklist — it’s about being passionate about every single item on that list and defending it to your dying breath. And sometimes, if your list doesn’t align totally with someone else’s, then it looks like you’re not friends anymore.

The thing is, sometimes, more often than not, we don’t know enough to fill out that list to completion.

If we really wanted to analyze that list, we’d find out that we really don’t know a lot about everything. Sure, there’s going to be one or two big topics that we have to have expert opinions on. But just because someone can recite environmental policy to you and give you the benefits and drawbacks of each source of renewable energy, that does not mean they are an expert on conflict in the Middle East. Consciously, we are aware of this. But for some reason, a lot of us just don’t admit when we don’t know something.

Worst of all, we don’t listen when someone who does know more about that topic tries to educate us.

The fix is simple: Admit what we don’t know and learn from someone who does.

When having discussions with friends, don’t align your completed checklists with each other’s. It’s okay to have a few unchecked boxes. It’s okay to have friends whose checklists don’t completely align with yours. Help each other fill out those checklists — but don’t blindly copy. Listen, comprehend, evaluate, compare to your existing opinion and other opinions. The boxes on these lists aren’t just a big yes or no. It’s a sliding scale. And remember — you can always go back and change your answers.

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