Opinion: The need to revive civil discourse

Lucas Misera

On April 18, the New Boston Post, a self-titled “hub of conservative thought,” posted a controversial editorial lambasting college-age students for the creation of “safe spaces.” The author, Kyle Reyes, described the upcoming generation as “wussified.”

Reyes’ writing is crass and biased against liberalism, but the response to the article exemplified his point: Rather than challenge the article, those who disagreed seemed to immediately dismiss it because the style was quite overwhelmingly blunt.

At one point in the article, the author, a president and CEO, claims that “if you don’t want to be a victim, then don’t be.” He argues that college students are too quick to categorize those that challenge their perspective as “bigots.”

To some degree, he’s wrong. There are students who are legitimate victims of prejudice and injustice, in which case safe spaces can be a useful tool. Nobody should feel unsafe in their community. Protecting these individuals is crucial.

However, there’s a distinct difference between personal attacks and a difference of opinion. I shouldn’t feel personally attacked by somebody chalking “Trump 2016” on a sidewalk. In an ideal scenario, I could have a civil conversation that helps me better understand why they support Donald Trump, and I could reasonably justify my political stance. Unfortunately, as of late, this middle-ground has been exceptionally difficult to reach.

The reason that people disagree should be to engage in constructive conversation, not to grow further apart until progress becomes stagnant and compromise grows to be obsolete. This appears to be a trend, but I disagree with the author of the article’s presumed root of the problem.

He asserts that this generation of college students is to blame, but it’s more reasonable to pin the responsibility on the years of gridlock from our nation’s leaders that we have seen far too often. Despite this, it’s our obligation to ensure that such a poor display of leadership doesn’t spill over into the future. Disagreement and gridlock, for our generation’s sake, can’t be one in the same.

Protecting political correctness should be a priority, but it’s also important to avoid hampering the free exchange of thoughts and ideas. Shutting out opinions and perspectives that contradict ours is an unhealthy and unproductive way of facing that difference.

Reyes’ article may lack the tact needed to be taken too seriously, but his point is clear and effective: We can’t reinvent our culture through safe spaces or by promoting our views louder than the next person. Disagreement, if done respectfully, results in the edification of society.

This article drives home one critical, nearly indisputable point: not everybody will agree on everything, but learning how to work through contrasting standpoints civilly and with an open mind is a skill our generation has yet to refine.

Lucas Misera is a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].