Editorial Notebooks

Political talks encouraged

Imagine the following scene: two scientists sit down for lunch. The first one says, “Hey, I heard about this great new technique for treating cancer.” The other one cuts him off, remarking, “Whoa whoa whoa, hold on there, don’t you know? You never talk about scientific research!” The notion of such a thing as that happening is ridiculous. The reason is simple—progress is made because of people sharing their ideas and working together. This is why I not only dislike the popular phrase, “Never talk about religion or politics,” but think that such a stance can be harmful to society.

The ideas within the arts and sciences, be they accepted theories of human migration or controversial plans for stem cell research, are often openly discussed by both the layperson and the professional. Without such open discussion, no progress would be made on any of the issues in these fields. That is why that phrase I mentioned before is so dangerous; it encourages shunning discussion and ostracizing those who do talk about politics and religion. This is particularly dangerous to the former, as discussion is the lifeblood that animates politics. I believe that the often-spoken slogan of silence stems from a desire to encourage politeness and friendliness amongst friends and associates. However, a lack of open dialogue will not lead to a more peaceful, pleasant, and polite society; it will only lead to a more ignorant and blindly passionate one. This does not need to be the case; politics can and should be discussed amongst people in a civilized, passionate way—so long as that passionate discussion does not turn into a two-sided vitriolic rant. The phrase is well-intentioned; however, it only contributes to the problem it seeks to solve. By pushing political discussion further and further away from a socially acceptable topic, it merely makes exchanges of differing political views more and more unlikely and more and more distasteful.

If there is to be progress, there must be a fundamental change in how the American society views, and more importantly, treats political conversation. The subject of politics must be brought out of the ugly shadows to which it is currently relegated. Discussion of politics must be changed from an impolite subject that brings about either awkward silence or angry rebuttals from those who disagree with the speaker. Discussions with tempered passion and exchanges of opposing ideological ideas must not only take place, but they must be encouraged to take place—the exact opposite of what the current tacit agreement amongst people is.