Opinion: College students need to be more civil in discussing cultural and political issues

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Kyle Meyer

Political science junior Kyle Meyer writes about civil speech.

While scrolling through Twitter, I came across an article in the OU Daily about how a sorority member had sparked outrage by wearing a Pocahontas costume for Halloween. I’m not here to debate the issue of costumes and culture. I’m here to talk about the disturbing trend of college students viciously attacking each other when they disagree. If we are not more civil with each other, and if we don’t try to listen to each other more, then we are headed down a dangerous path.

Since coming to OU in fall of 2015, I have witnessed and even experienced vicious attacks from people who disagree politically. The 2016 election was indeed divisive, and the rhetoric did not help ease political tensions. But oftentimes, the very people who were denouncing the divisive rhetoric were engaging in divisiveness themselves, and after the election, the rhetoric has not toned down.

When I came across The Daily's article about the Pocahontas costume, I became interested in seeing how people were reacting to it. What I saw disturbed me. Instead of trying to understand and listen to each other, people were viciously attacking each other. Foul language was being used, and people were name-calling and engaging in cyberbullying. What good does this do?

The people who were upset over the costume have every right to express their views. The people who don’t find the costume upsetting also have the right to express their views. That’s what America is all about — having civil debates with each other and recognizing everyone has the right to an opinion, even if it’s one we deeply disagree with or even find offensive. Name-calling and foul language in no way furthers your cause. It only polarizes us more and makes us tune each other out. More people need to be civil when expressing their feelings instead of immediately jumping into attack mode and blasting out tweets. Instead of calling each other “racist” or “snowflakes,” we should try to better understand why the other side feels the way they do.

My freshman year, I submitted a column to The Daily arguing in defense of the chant “Boomer Sooner.” After the article was released, I was immediately attacked on social media and was called names and made fun of for my looks. Luckily, as a political science major, I am used to people not necessarily reacting well to my views, and therefore I am decently thick-skinned. This didn’t mean I wasn’t upset that people were attacking me, as a person, for my views rather than attacking my views themselves. I am saddened by the lack of civility going on in many conversations today. Brenda Shay, a very influential teacher of mine in high school, taught me a motto that I still follow today and will always follow. The motto is simple: “Attack ideas, not people.”

Kyle Meyer is a political science junior and guest columnist for The Daily.

The Daily welcomes letters to the editor and guest columns from the OU community. To submit a letter or column, email dailyopinion@ou.edu.

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