Freedom of speech? Think again

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By Celina Mahabir

In his statement, “Politics is war without bloodshed,” former Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong sums up international politics in a nutshell: it’s nothing but conflict, controversy and constant bickering.

We can’t ignore what we see in the media, though. It’s thrown at us from virtually a billion different angles, getting half the story here and the other half somewhere else in a completely different light. Politics is one of the topics that the supposedly unbiased, impartial news outlets are responsible for covering. However, we have to face it – both what’s reported to us through news outlets and what’s communicated through social media threads is written with a bias in mind.

With the recent outbreak in protests, marches and congressional clapbacks following the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States, everyone from little kids to the old and wise have formed an opinion on the raging political climate in our country. Whether you’re supportive of Republicans or Democrats or simply don’t care about politics, we all have our own opinions. Sometimes, people find it their duty to force their political opinion down someone else’s throat in order to get their message across.

That’s the thing – we claim to be a compassionate society, allowing everyone freedom to say whatever they feel like, but then we contradict ourselves. We respect someone’s views on immigration, but we can’t stand their thoughts on the economy. We think someone is intelligent and innovative, but the moment they say they side with Trump or Clinton or even Sanders, for that matter, we shut out anything they have to say and deem them close-minded, arrogant and insensitive.

Who are we to assess whether someone else’s opinion is respectable or not? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. That doesn’t mean we should stop talking about our own views. You can have healthy debates while maintaining different perspectives – that’s what makes politics all the more interesting. What’s not acceptable is degrading someone for what they believe in, regardless of whether it lines up with your own standpoint.

As a communication major, I’m taught to look at the media with a critical eye – to look past the attempts to play on your heartstrings and get you to focus on the heart of the issue. You have to remember to understand and empathize with both sides of the story before criticizing.

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