Respect all opinions

Opinions. Who needs them?

I’ve been asking myself that question a lot lately. As the new Viewpoints editor at the start of my last semester at Northern Kentucky University, I’ve been reflecting on some of the things I’ve written. I’ve also thought about some of the feedback I’ve personally received, and that I’ve seen my co-workers receive. It hasn’t always been positive, but I appreciate negative opinions just as much, if not more, than the positive ones. Sometimes we don’t need a pat on the back; we need a reality check, a tip or a reminder that we always have something to learn. But sometimes the feedback we get isn’t so constructive. It’s somewhere in the area dividing criticism and debate from insults and rants.

I know arguing. I’ve been arguing since the first days I was able to directly contradict my dad. I’ve debated on the Internet since the days of yore, when Yahoo reigned over the virtual realm and people lived in Geocities.

It was on the net, however, that I learned my first two rules of debate. The first is known as Godwin’s Law, which states that the longer a discussion goes on the more likely it is someone will bring up Nazis or Hitler (and thus end any kind of intelligent debate). The second was that you can not change anyone’s mind on anything.

Is this cynical? Yes. Is it true? I’ve always liked to think it wasn’t, but the longer I work at The Northerner, the harder I have to work to convince myself it isn’t. I’m not speaking of the people working at The Northerner however; as a bureaucratically designed student group, there are people who will eventually step into any debate and effectively end it by trumping everyone else’s title. Plus there’s always the AP Stylebook.

What I’m talking about is that no one likes to have their opinion contradicted, and for every one person who will calmly send a letter to the editor and discuss why the latest opinion is wrong using logic and respect, there are many more letters asking when this university went wrong, letting us know that the reader (usually a long time fan of The Northerner, perhaps even an alumnus) will never read our travesty of a publication again, or just finding a way to personally attack anyone and anything he or she can get his or her words on.

They’re called opinions, and even the uninformed ones hold the distinction of a creator who spent enough time to actually try to come up with a statement.

So I’d like to ask a question of those of you who actually still read the Northerner – who don’t collect every issue and burn them in a mass bonfire every week ever since someone disagreed with you about the parking lot situation or said something that you maybe should have just been momentarily offended by. I ask that every one of you understand how hard it is for someone to actually fully express his or her opinion in public and honor it enough to either disagree with that person respectfully, or, at the very least, not bemoan the state of existence because there are people on the opposite wing of the political spectrum as you.

And yet I fully expect to get hatemail, especially any time we bring up any truly controversial subjects. So why did I even bother writing this editorial? Because no matter how many times people have tried to convince me that I shouldn’t bother arguing – because you can’t change anyone’s mind on anything – I will never believe it.

Sounds about right, doesn’t it?