You’d think the most beautiful moment in any person’s life is the day they can finally see in color. The day that we realize nothing is, in fact, black and white.
Instead, we take for granted all that makes us different, spending our days contributing to a never-ending tug-of-war in an effort to prove that the one true opinion at the center of the rope will somehow bring us triumph.
The lovely thing about being a kid is that ignorance is bliss. In my youth, a plate of french fries and a can of Coca-Cola was all the proof I needed to believe in heaven. I didn’t have the time to be convinced that anything else could possibly be of greater importance.
I spent all hours of the day playing outside with the kids next door. Any semblance of civility or common sense completely escaped our bodies as we walked the streets barefoot and rolled around in the dirt.
I grew up in Utah — a predominantly conservative and Mormon state. If it wasn’t my lack of being white that made me stick out like a sore thumb, then it was my being underdressed every Sunday that added to the swelling.
The Utahns I grew up playing with need no description, as they fit the stereotypical family of six you’re likely picturing in your head. I’d eventually learn that our families weren’t even reading the same book, let alone the same page, when it came to our politics and ideologies.
In spite of that, we’d never forget the disdain we shared for our shoes and for cleanliness as kids. The time I spent with them filled me with joy. There was no time to lose sleep over our differences of opinion as the daylight had no obligation to wait for us to settle them. It’s thanks to those early friendships that I’d become aware of the value in being able to disagree with others.
It wasn’t long ago that we weren’t so susceptible to canceling one another or to shunning people from society until they had a change of heart that matched popular opinion. Much of my generation takes great pride in the idea that we’re a representation of the future, as if we could never be privy to the same mistakes made by the generations that came before us.
Who’s to say we’re incapable of being inventors of our own mistakes? For a generation so focused on the future, we do a lot of digging into the past. These days, people’s pasts are only called upon for the bad they’ve done, but perfection is a trait yet to be obtained by any human who has walked the earth. A life without mistakes is a life without lessons.
The youth throughout America’s history has often been keen on “sticking it to the man.” Today’s youth is no exception. Perhaps being reminded by adults that we couldn’t possibly know any better is what’s driven us to behave as though we know better than anyone else.
While I’m aware of the leaps that have yet to be made, I applaud the efforts and the progress we’ve made toward a more inclusive society for people from all walks of life to live in. However, it’s not without proper reflection that progress sees results.
If not for our ability to acknowledge the lack of inclusivity throughout our country’s history, we’d never have started the necessary conversations to free ourselves of society’s many subjugations. It’s because we live in a nation that grants us the right to begin such a dialogue that we’ve come as far as we have. That right is and has never been exclusive to one party or singular group.
I’m not suggesting that everyone has to agree or that anyone should withhold their natural response to another person’s opinion. I’m asking that we allow the space for others to say and do as they’d like without fear of being publicly humiliated for simply feeling differently toward something than you do.
With all the hard work and progress that continues to be made, let us not become the proverbial “man.” We argue for freedom of speech and expression, but punish the insertion of opinions that differ from ours. Nobody can be right if everybody’s wrong.
Opinions are not synonymous with facts. There’s no rulebook when it comes to someone’s point of view. Though discord can be difficult, I implore our society to refrain from stripping people of their right to openly express their beliefs regardless of how they identify or which political party they belong to.
If nothing else can bring us together, let’s not forget that everyone’s heard a song they can’t help but dance to.
Reach writer Michael Delgado at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @DailyUW_md
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