If I were to sit at a dinner table with my politically conservative family discussing climate change, I might say something like, “I think we should probably sign the Green New Deal. We need to take climate change into account when developing economic policy.”
After sharing what I feel is a mild statement, I would be subject to an array of labels, including “socialist” or “sheep of the media engine.”
Then, if I were to sit down with politically liberal individuals talking about how Donald Trump was the worst president in our history, I might say, “Well, I agree that Trump was a terrible person, but you have to give him some credit for his foreign policy agenda.”
This statement could end up even worse for me, possibly resulting in being called a racist, homophobe and far-right narcissist for expressing the slightest support of Trump.
Exchanges like these have happened across millions of dinner tables, Twitter threads and barber shops over the past few years. It seems no one can have a civil political conversation without taking a side completely, and considering the argument of the other side(s) is not encouraged if you want to remain well-liked by your peers.
This one-sided view of arguments is not exclusive to political discourse.
In music, to be considered a “true fan,” you’re expected to support the artists you enjoy in everything they do, not just their art.
I’m a fan of Kanye West, now known as Ye. Many people may label me as anti-Semitic for making that statement, even if I preface that I in no way support his actions and simply enjoy his music.
Of course, this criticism would be valid if Ye’s music had true anti-Semitic undertones, but this is not the case.
People are unable to separate the art from the artist, leading to toxic discourse where people feel guilty for enjoying music they enjoy, regardless of who made it.
Sports also lack civil conversation. As a sports editor for The Brown and White and a huge sports fan, I know this all too well. If you criticize a player, you’re often labeled a hater, but if you support a player, you may be labeled a “homer.”
For example, in the debate between Lebron James and Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time, this idea is clear. I believe James isn’t the greatest due to his 2011 NBA Finals meltdown and inability to completely and utterly dominate his era as Jordan did.
James, however, is my favorite basketball player, and I think he is the second greatest basketball player to ever live, which should be considered an extremely impressive accomplishment. Yet, because I don’t completely take James’ side, some of his fans won’t see me as anything but a hater.
This works the other way around, too, as calling Jordan anything short of the greatest ever would make some basketball fans think you’ve never watched the sport. In reality, James and Jordan have a 1A, 1B dynamic without a distinct number one and two.
There’s one theme underlying each of these scenarios: a lack of nuance.
No matter the topic, there is no nuance in modern discourse. It sometimes feels impossible to hold any position other than one of two dominant viewpoints.
If you’re a liberal, you can’t have any conservative beliefs. If you’re a conservative, you can’t have any liberal beliefs. If you’re a Ye fan, your beliefs are assumed to align with his. If you’re a James fan, you must support his career without any criticism.
This lack of nuance is unhealthy — it separates our conversations from what reality truly is. It makes everything out to be black and white when issues are not so stark.
In the real world, most things are gray. It’s very rare to see a situation where one side is completely correct, but this is not what people want you to believe. People want you to take a side with everything, or else you’re a useless centrist.
I’m not sure if this lack of nuance can be attributed to social media’s cutthroat nature, the two-party political system, people’s inherent desire to always be right and fit in with a group or some other force. What I do know is that our country (and beyond) could use a lot more nuance to better understand and respect each other.
So, next time someone opposes your view on something, hear them out — and make yourself heard if you tend to think more in the gray.