We seem to be living in a very declaritive time in America. Maybe in social media, maybe it’s kids raised on psychoanalysis, maybe it’s just that people think their opinions matter more because they are most true to them. Whatever the case, though, people are making statements that don’t seem to have factual basis, research, or even hints of truth. Because of the subject matter, however, their views aren’t really called into question. The political hotbed that is our country has ignited like gas on flames with even the smallest of issues. So, when you throw out topics like racism, immigration, male-female relations, abortion or other heated topics, the personal declarations become just that–personal. Anyone who says that something is racist, sexist, oppressive, murderous or divisive has become the expert and the person or persons that is accused becomes the indicted. Their declaraion makes is the truth and anything that a person does to refute it is met with sceptisim and violence.
When I was in my twenties, I remember a professor speaking about the power of questions. It is known in the world of communication that the person who asks the questions holds the power. If you want to see a humerous example, watch “Who’s Line is it Anyway” and the category of “Questions Only“. The performers battle over getting the power. This isn’t the case anymore it seems. In fact, it doesn’t appear that people are allowed to ask questions. They aren’t allowed to challenge thinking. When something is declared (of course the more inflamatory or the more famous the person the more influential) then is it stone written. To questions is to put on the suit of the accusation itself. If someone asks why something is “sexist” then they become sexist for posing the question. This is true of both sides of every issue, whether it be CNN or FOX News, Democratic or Republican, conservative or liberal.
I don’t like this, I don’t mind saying. I think questions are the only way to get out of the aggressive conflicts that are taking place. If someone says, “Universal health care is stupid and anyone who wants it is a socialist.” I want to ask, “How would you provide medical care for someone who isn’t able to afford it?” or “What is our civic duty to take care of our fellow man?” When someone says, “We should have open boarders.” I want to ask “So Mexico and Canada would be free to have anyone cross at any time?” or “How would you assist in the assimilation of people who come into this country without a process?” I have never known anyone who wants to take a declaration and actually think it through. Perhaps this is due to the fact that people just regurgitate what opinionated news anchors tell them, or that they just reTweet what others have posted. Either way, people don’t want to sit down and have a conversation. They want to give a very brief monologue.
So, start asking questions. I would start with these and go from there.
- What do you mean by that?
- What’s your definition of… (Racist, Sexist, Murder, Immigrant)?
- Where did you get your information/facts?
- What if you’re wrong?
- How does your statement shape your values, then?
I am going to make it a priority to ask people to clarify their declarations. I believe if everyone does this, then it will shift the power from those who don’t know the answers to those who aren’t afraid of being questioned.