In short, the debate tonight was fascinating. I truly wish that it could have gone on for longer. From hearing perspectives I have no access, to really considering the fine points of an argument, I was enthralled. Questions I had never truly thought of were brought up: What is a safe space? Is personal ideological safety or exposure to ideas and development of acceptance more important? What even is a safe space, and safe for who? Safe from what? Should we be safe? Is a safe space counterproductive to a college campus? Should there be censorship? What allows a word to be used? How is using something like “the n-word” still evoking that word and pushing the negativity? Does the Second Amendment apply to all? How are words written such a long time ago still so problematic today? How is the NRA’s position of the Second Amendment inconsistent? Why is there a double standard with the right to bear arms? Does the Second Amendment even say that private citizens should be lawfully allowed to bear arms?
Coming away from this debate, I was left with more questions and a sudden ardent desire to talk about these things. Right after the debate, some of my friends who I attended the event with all sat down together for dinner and we debated the Second Amendment and even the purpose of having a gun in the first place. It was fascinating, passionate, but most importantly, civil.
I had never truly considered the value of disagreement as Dr. Camper brought up in his opening remarks. Sure, I have had political discussions with friends and acquaintances who have much different political ideologies than me, but I never considered how vital this is to a democracy. Maybe society would function most smoothly if everyone thought the exact same way, but that’s not at all realistic, nor would that make for an interesting life. We need differences, both to approach problems from different perspectives, but also to debate and come up with the best possible solution. The biggest problem is when we become intolerant to opinions that are not in line with our own.
I think that this is one of the biggest problems in our government right now. As the student who also contributed opening remarks said, our Congress is more politically split than what has been historically recorded. Not only this, but I learned in my political science that people in the Congress have become less willing to compromise with those from the other party, in fact, there is little cooperation between parties. The only natural result of this is a stalemate. Is there any way to fix it but to start with the general public, learning how to compromise? We, as a society, must start to become more tolerant of other opinions but also more informed too. The people who serve in government only represent the people who have elected them—it is wrong to blame these officials when we have not considered our own faults.
As I said, I wish that the debate could have gone on for longer. There were so many fascinating ideas—the claim that “Democracy is a street fight” especially has stuck with me. Also, I never knew the history of the NRA and the racist disgrace of this organization’s formation. This debate has left me hungering for more knowledge, more questions, more claims and proof. If only the televised presidential debates resembled this one a little more…