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Everyone’s Opinion Deserves Respect
Emily Xu
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Now that the 2016 presidential election is ancient history, I’ve been doing of a lot of thinking and reading up on how and why Trump got elected. I have been mostly reading The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The New Yorker.

Prior to the election I thought Trump was the bad guy and his supporters were all bigots. But what I’m learning is that not everyone who voted for him was a white supremacist or hated immigrants, for example.

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There are pockets of people around the country that desperately need change. I learned about the Rust Belt, where many people lost jobs because some manufacturing industries moved overseas. This move devastated communities that relied on those industries economically. Some of these people believed in the change Trump promised. If I were in their position, I might have believed in him, too.

I listen to podcasts like NPR Politics and The Daily on my way to school. But I realized that all of my media sources are left-leaning. So after getting suggestions from my history teacher, I now also watch and read conservative media too, such as the National Review and Fox News. I even read Breitbart, a news site for the “alt-right” once led by former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, which the Anti-Defamation League has said represents “white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists.”

I no longer brush off the students in my classes who have opposing political views. In fact, I find that I agree with some of their beliefs. For example, I support non-interventionism in foreign countries. That’s the belief that the U.S. should only get involved in other countries’ affairs or wars when there’s an important reason to do so.

Exposing myself to conservative ideas doesn’t make me conservative. Instead it helps me better understand what conservatism is and why people align with it. (Not that Trump’s views totally line up with conservative beliefs and values, but a lot of voters figured if he was the Republican on the ballot, he was their best hope.)

Protecting My Rights

Understanding the other side helps me get clearer on my own politics and advocacy. I follow organizations like the Answer Coalition, Greenpeace, and Amnesty International, and sign their petitions on Change.org. It also makes me feel good to be knowledgeable about current events and to hold my own in discussions.

Being well-informed has given me the confidence to ask more questions, and to be able to hear others’ opinions while presenting my own. I no longer just say I support certain views and policies; now I am actually doing it.

When I spend my free periods conversing with my friends, I try to encourage them to be more open-minded, too.

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“Emily, you can’t possibly think that abortion should be illegal,” one friend recently snapped. “Imagine if you found out you were pregnant and didn’t want the baby. Don’t you think you should have the choice to not have it? Don’t be stupid like every other pro-life wacko out there.”

“I don’t think abortion should be illegal. I agree that a woman’s body is her own and that she should be allowed to make her own decision,” I said. “I don’t think a fetus should trump a woman’s choice, but I understand why others disagree. Just because someone is pro-life doesn’t make them a wacko.”

Respecting All Sides

Trump’s presidency has put politics in the spotlight, particularly for people who didn’t pay much attention to it before. He has shown people the reach of presidential power. In doing so, he has made more people speak up about how they want our government to change. That’s something we can thank him for.

It has been over a year since the election. It’s more important now than ever to be knowledgeable about all aspects of an issue and respect all sides of a conversation, instead of tearing down people who don’t think the same way I do.

So now, when I talk to people who support Trump, I don’t feel the incredulity rising up in my chest and seeping through my words as it once did. I find myself taking in what they are saying, asking why they think the way they do, and responding in a more thoughtful, educated manner. It makes me feel good to use my voice respectfully and meaningfully.


Check Out These Features to See Outside Your Point of View

BuzzFeed, “Outside Your Bubble”
buzzfeed.com/bensmith/helping-you-see-outside-your-bubble

Facebook, “Escape Your Bubble”
escapeyourbubble.com

Crooked.com, “With Friends Like These”
crooked.com/podcast-series/with-friends-like-these

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(NYC-2018-01-22)