I know that you think that you are right, and actually there is a good chance that I agree with you, but the fact remains that there are still things that we do not yet realize, recognize, or understand about the ideas or people with whom we disagree.
Let’s start with politics. Whether you identify as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent or none of the above, it is important to realize that our opposition does in fact (usually) have a point. Issues such as capital punishment, marriage equality, economics, war, or abortion rights have too often reflected the dichotomous nature of our two-party system. Either you are right or you are left, either you are for or against, either you agree with us or you are a detestable brute set out to destroy all things good and holy in the world.
Believe it or not, the issues which I have listed, as well as many that I have not listed, have been drastically over simplified. Just because a person is a Republican does not mean that they are against marriage equality and just because a person is a Democrat does not mean that they are pro-choice. Opinions and beliefs are complicated; they come from many different perspectives and pull from a mess usually classified as “values” of one sort or another. There are times when we might disagree with our friends and agree with our enemies—the world can be weird that way. While we might identify ourselves as either this or that, those things do not, in fact, define us.
We need to know why we believe something, whether that something is our politics, our spiritual beliefs, or our conception of who we want to be when we grow up. To believe something “just because,” is not only lame, but it will also leave you defenseless in an argument. Perhaps, though, that might be the best thing for you if you find yourself in that situation. Opposition is one of the best ways through which we can discover our own beliefs. The simple question of “why?” can prompt us to recognize the foundations and fallacies of our own perspectives.
Sometimes people might think that they disagree, but actually they don’t. Religion tends to do this a lot. There are significant differences between some religions, as the Dali Lama said, “every major religion of the world has similar ideals of love, the same goal of benefiting humanity through spiritual practice, and the same effect of making their followers into better human beings.” I think that these disagreements stem in large part from the fact that it is usually very fun to push people’s buttons, to play devil’s advocate, to make people squirm. Most everyone has opinions of one sort or another, but a surprising amount of people have no idea why they believe what they do. Pointing that out is actually a public service no matter what side they identify with.
Here is my suggestion–get together with a group of your friends, preferably intelligent ones, and bring up issues that you think have been over-simplified in general Gustavus conversations. Consider this an experiment, your comments and perspectives do not have to be declarations of truth or representations of your own principles, but they can represent legitimate questions and arguments to which you have yet to respond. Step out of your own shoes, walk around a little, and discover how the world is different than you thought. Unanswered questions are usually the most important ones to explore.