Editorial: The Importance of Civil Discourse 

Katie Kempff and Jeff Pape

Right now, political buzzwords are everywhere. They’re in the ads on the radio, on your TikTok For You Page, and in the conversations of friends and family. 

With the presidential election only days away, there is an aura of urgency behind every political discussion. However, there is also an underlying tone of fear when sharing views in today’s climate. Whether you are conservative, liberal, or somewhere in between, it’s likely that you’ve experienced the fear of judgment that comes with sharing your political views.

In a time when it feels like the world has never been more polarized, working to be civil and unified whenever possible is more important than ever. This sounds ideal in theory, of course, but in practice, it can often be hard to work with someone who has different beliefs than you. 

Working toward open, civil discussion is the only way that our country can begin to grow and recover from years of polarizing arguments. This is not to say that everyone should get along, or have similar opinions, though.

Democracy was created to encourage a wide variety of ideas and leadership styles. Civil discourse and scrutinizing these different options is a key pillar of democracy that should never be discredited. However, in the current political rhetoric, there is far more speaking than there is listening. Criticism is given without context, and people are attacked for their personal attributes rather than involved in a civil discussion of their political views. 

It is important to remember, even in the midst of intense political disagreement, that people on the other side are not inferior. Even those on the opposing side genuinely believe that the policies they support are what is best for the nation. 

You do not have to be best friends with someone who has an opposite political identity to your own. However, odds are that you will have to work closely with people like this as you move forward in your life. 

Learning to take a side respectfully is the most important thing that our generation can learn from the current political environment. Learning how to listen to the opposing side, even if you do not agree, is what will protect our freedom of speech. 

Of course, if someone is saying something that is hateful or offensive, you have no obligation to listen to them. It is perfectly acceptable to shut down political discourse if someone is not respecting you or anybody else. This kind of verbal harassment, bullying, or hate speech can even be illegal, and there is no reason to deal with it at any time.  

But there is a difference between someone saying something that is hateful and saying something that you disagree with. The “cancel culture” of today’s world has grown so strong that sharing any kind of strong view can garner hate on the internet, or in real life. 

Learning to navigate our political differences and working to be more unified is the only way that our country can start to move forward.  But that takes effort.  It means going out of our way to corroborate what we read on one news site with information from others to find out what’s actually true.  It means seeking out divergent viewpoints from our own to challenge our thinking.  

And most of all, it means biting our tongue when that classmate–or that brother, uncle, or whoever–begins saying something simply to spite us.  Because it is only through civil discourse and discussion that we can come to an agreement about what’s best for all of us.