Thoughts on Equality and Acceptance



I recall freshman year. Before then I had always been told that my opinions mattered, and so did everyone else’s. I was taught America’s vision of free speech and the value of different opinions as the fundamental basis for a free nation, and the backbone of democracy. So I sought to abide by this philosophy of acceptance and freedom, but I soon learned that many students do not care for other opinions, they only cared about themselves.

All around me I saw students proudly displaying the symbols of their religious affiliations; crucifix necklaces, Muslim Hijabs, t-shirts displaying various churches, and I wanted to be able to express my own views as well, so I came into school with an atheist T-shirt. As an advocate of open-mindedness, I trusted that I would only need to defend my opinions with intellectual debate, but I was wrong.

While sitting at the lunch table, I was surprised to feel something hit me, and then hit me again. The seniors sitting at the table opposite to me had begun throwing pieces of their lunch at me, yelling and mocking me because I “did not believe in God.” They swore at me for being an atheist, and not a Christian, and that’s when I realized that those who refuse to understand and accept other beliefs will hate people that are different.

I did not understand their anger and immaturity. They yelled at me for not being a Christian, but completely disregarded the teachings of Christ by resorting to violence. This is the issue, although this was a case regarding particularly immature seniors, students prefer to resort to yelling and anger to express their opinions instead of conversation.

People are not going to be converted to any new idea by force, using hostility and violence when expressing opinion is completely futile. The only way to really reach someone, and make them further assess their own beliefs, is through intelligent conversation. You have to understand that the people you are trying to persuade are probably just as passionate about the issue as you are, except in favor of their own beliefs, and this is what will cause pure conflict if you only try to argue with them. With hostility the other person will only be formulating defence of their own opinion but calm reasoning will make someone actually set aside this defense and think. Getting someone to at least further assess their beliefs is a sign of open-mindedness, and thus a chance at changing opinion. The goal is to transcend futile bickering and start sharing ideas and opinions in a way that both parties are able to understand and expand upon the debate.

A lack of acceptance becomes not only an issue of ignorance, but ignorance caused by anger. It is extremely important to set aside personal grudges or hostility toward other opinions because intelligent debate is what advances our own knowledge of the world and formulates strong opinion based on fact, and not just ignorant misguidance.

For a better more peaceful nation, we need to stop being influenced by our culture of cutthroat politics and anger driven views, and start treating each other like human beings, like brothers and sisters. We do not have to like each other, but as fellow citizens of America and citizens of the world, we must treat everyone with respect and decency so that acceptance of beliefs can be achieved. And once peace and calm-headedness is instigated, a more progressive society can flourish. We all want to live in a harmonious world, and if that means you have to suck it up and listen to the opposition to your opinion, then that is what it takes to be a mature and intelligent person. Acceptance is an essential part of a successful democracy, and freedom will only exist if we begin to work together.