A few months ago, as my family was taking a shuttle back from the airport after a family vacation, two other passengers on the same shuttle got into a political debate. Well, not exactly a debate. More like a chaotic attack. It was very uncomfortable to sit and listen to them whamming each other with all sorts of fallacious arguments, nasty comments, and – yeah – even swear words. I have pondered on that encounter for a long time, wondering why people have to be so unkind to one another over beliefs that don’t even compare with the value of a human soul.
I finally came to the conclusion: the catch about living in a free country is that everyone else is free too. We have the right to say what we believe, but we do not have the right to force others to believe what we say.
If we want to support freedom of speech in a country, we have to be okay with people saying things we don’t like. In fact, when people say things we disagree with, that should be a reason to rejoice that every person is able to speak out for the things they believe in and no one, not even those we strongly disagree with, is shut down or ‘cancelled’.
Unfortunately, many people don’t understand this concept. Now, I’m not writing to blame any one person or political party. I believe everyone does this in their turn. It’s a human flaw, and that means no human is exempted from it. It’s not “the Democrats’ fault” or “a stupid thing the conservatives do”. Though we may divide ourselves into groups, in the end we are all imperfect humans with many of the same flaws. If we would all stop blaming each other for everything we don’t like, we might find that when we work together, we can accomplish a lot of good in this world.
One of the biggest problems in our society is that we can’t understand why anyone would think differently from the way we think. We have this self-centered mindset that everything we believe in is the righteous truth, and if anyone thinks differently – well, then, they must be sinners. I’m not excusing myself from this. Like I said, this is a human weakness, and everyone falls for it at some point in their lives.
But wouldn’t it be so much better if we could be more open-minded? I’m not saying we have to change our beliefs, but instead of shutting people down when they say something unpopular, why can’t we accept that they have different beliefs too that are just as important to them as our beliefs are to us? Why can’t we be kind to our fellow sojourners on the earth, even if their minds work at polar opposites to ours?
When we truly allow freedom of speech instead of just ‘cancelling’ everyone we disagree with, we gain a lot of benefits. Suddenly, we have more creators, people who are willing to think outside of the box. Sometimes our perspectives might get wider as we learn what others have to say. Even if we still disagree with some people, our world is strengthened because we are still willing to work with them and be kind to them regardless of what they believe.
When I dream of a better world, this is what I dream of – not that people all believe the same things and act in the same ways. I dream that one day people will be able to work together and build each other up, even though everyone believes and thinks in their own unique way. Diversity is only a strength when people are willing to build beautiful things with it instead of constantly battling others because of it.
May we always build instead of burn; create instead of destroy.