Dialogue and Taboo. More of one and less of the other

The Beacon Bolt is a publication of the student body of Northwest Christian University. There are certain topics we feel more comfortable discussing than others, naturally. Some things, often one’s that don’t go as deep, are just easier to talk about. Such topics are amazing and routinely function in positive ways. A bleeding liberal and entrenched conservative can find camaraderie in the shared love of their favorite football team. In a conversation of politics and ideology they may never see eye to eye, and if they were to discuss such things they could likely end up shouting at each other until they were blue in the face (or maybe one of them blue and the other red). But when their team’s game is on ESPN they may very well be seen sitting side by side, both cheering with the same fervor that they might be arguing with in different circumstances.

A Christian and an Atheist may never be able to sway each other on their spiritual beliefs, but could spend hours in conversation on their shared taste in music or their favorite films. These sort of topics perform a great service to humanity in that, while they may not carry the same level of importance as, say, discussing the viable solutions to world hunger, they ensure that there is always the potential for two people, no matter how different on how many levels, to find some common ground and be reminded that while the other person may be someone they will be at odds with on most subjects, their adversary is still human, and not their adversary on all fronts.

That being said, it is equally easy to avoid talking about the topics that can lead to confrontation, even if they are important. Sweeping issues under the rug is a way to stay comfortable in the kiddie pool of dialogue, but it only postpones the resurfacing of what’s being avoided to a later time, all the while building up pressure for a bigger boom. This inevitably leads to the “taboo” label being assigned to certain topics, at which point it’s no longer a few people feeling personally uncomfortable talking about something, but an entire community or country being conditioned for silence. But topics, especially the suppressed ones, don’t like being cooped up. They demand attention, and when they are ignored they will swell up until their shadow looms over all of us, impossible to ignore.

There are many pressing issues in this country that are either entirely taboo, or the notion of approaching them from a certain angle, or a certain group of people weighing in on the issue is. But all this does is ensure the problem not only goes unsolved, but grows. I get it, it’s difficult. In many cases we may have to haggle for hours trying to determine where in an issue the actual problem lies, and then, after that taxing endeavor, start to work towards solutions, another daunting task that requires us to have a tremendous amount of patience and to open our mind to the degree of which very few of us have ever attempted, just to hear the other side out.

Solving problems where there are multiple points of view requires dialogue, and that can’t happen when one side or viewpoint has a monopoly on an issue. The mere mention of a different point of view makes people so unsettled they would rather silence the voice than take the argument into consideration. You can’t eliminate sexual assault by not talking about it, all of it. You can’t solve the border crisis by simply ignoring those who want them closed, etc. etc.

The most recognizable, current example of what this eventually leads to is Donald Trump. Brash, blunt, loud, and of questionable (if not suspicious) loyalty, Mr. Trump has still found an incredible energy source by bringing to light the concerns of millions of people. People who have felt like their sentiments on many issues have essentially become taboo, and their voices largely ignored, even though their thoughts have legitimacy. They’re not being ignored now, and since the wait for their turn to speak was so long, and the means of which it was obtained was by an upheaval of the status quo rather than by the respect the establishment ought to have shown them, compromise is not something they’re particularly interested in seeking.

He says things how they would, and refuses to reign it in or tone it down at all. He says what he thinks, the way that he thinks. It might not be nicest wording, but on the plus side there’s never any confusion about what he says. Whatever he’s thinking at the time, he’ll make it crystal clear, like it or not.  Whether you have a favorable view of Trump, can’t stand him, or are merely an amused viewer of the spectacle, what we are witnessing is what happens when we pooh-pooh issues or suppress uncomfortable opinions of them, instead of letting the dialogue flow openly and letting anyone who can contribute take a seat at the table.

Take care, lest we become so afraid to confront what we fear that we attempt to silence those who do. Free speech is one of our greatest tools that can be used to tackle problems in a constructive way. It also guarantees that not every word spoken will be one that people desire to hear, which is a minuscule price to pay. Without dialogue, solutions aren’t recognized. When words become unspeakable, thoughts become unthinkable, and the voices of reason may very well be gagged along the way.