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It's Our Turn: America: a nation of uproar…no offense

It’s true. Today, it’s hard to express your own views within the realm of rational discussion. It’s hard to say anything at all, really, without offending someone.

I like to read Yahoo! news to keep up on world happenings (even though the articles are often biased). But what I can’t believe is how many articles there are about how someone’s actions or clothes or hair color caused uproar because it “offended” someone.

Uproar over the Atlanta Braves bringing back the screaming brave logo because it was a stereotype. Uproar over a young boy’s Marines T-shirt because it sported two crossed guns. Uproar over a certain local runestone’s origins.

Is there anything that doesn’t cause uproar? In fact, I’m only a few paragraphs in, and I’ve probably already offended somebody.

It’s not the fact that some people take offense to things that bothers me. People will always have opinions and people will always be offended. No, that’s not the problem.

The problem is when people intend to offend. The problem is when they stoop to name calling to “defend” their idea. The problem is when all rational arguments are rendered invalid by muddling insults.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche highlighted this point when he said, “One often contradicts an opinion when what is uncongenial is really the tone in which it was conveyed.”

And uproar just fuels the fire.

What happened to a good case of rhetoric followed by representable action? That’s how people used to express their views instead of throwing a tantrum or throwing people under the bus. Fortunately, rhetoric isn’t completely dead, but its life is withering.

A big example where the lack of it is prevalent is in political debates…for all sides. You always see those commercials that say, “Look what he did,” “She was troublesome as a teenager,” that kind of stuff.

John F. Kennedy was right in saying, “Too often we…enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

It’s easy to say, “I believe that,” “I believe this” without giving a coherent reason why and then lashing out at people who give the slightest indication of disagreeing with you just because you’re offended.

One of the best ways to make a point is to engage in an intelligent conversation and then take it one step further. Show people that you are loyal to your views through your actions.

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Rhetoric is a poor substitute for action, and we have trusted only to rhetoric. If we are really to be a great nation, we must not merely talk; we must act big.”

That’s how you know if someone truly believes what they stand for, if their actions give life to otherwise empty words and advance society, if only a little bit.

So what’s the key to making this stand? Keeping your actions respectable.

If someone’s argument is pushing you to the point where you might burst, rather than shout insults or flip the bird, you might just need to agree to disagree and let the matter drop.

Or you might even need to consider the possibility that…wait for are wrong. Say it ain’t so!

But no matter how much we disagree, agree, take offense or don’t, situations where you must defend your views are going to keep happening. And there will always be someone who takes offense.

It’s the way in which we respond that will either further or hinder society.

Because according to economist Thomas Sowell, “The big divide in this country is not between Democrats and Republicans, or women and men, but between talkers and doers.”

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“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

Jessica Sly

Jessica Sly has been working as a content writer at the Echo Press since May 2012, contributing, proofreading and editing content for both the Echo and Osakis Review. A Wadena native, she graduated from Verndale High School in 2009 and worked that summer at the Wadena Pioneer Journal as an intern reporter. She attended Northwestern College in St. Paul (now the University of Northwestern - St. Paul), where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in writing and a minor in Bible. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the piano (and learning the violin), reading, writing novels, going to the movies, and exploring Alexandria.

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