Taking a stand: opening a dialogue with honest opinions

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File Photo

A video was released a couple weeks ago containing footage of Mitt Romney making controversial comments while speaking at a private fundraiser in May.

The comments, which included the claim that 47 percent of Americans do not pay taxes, were heavily criticized by citizens and media alike. To cope with the increasing barrage of criticism, the Romney camp quickly put together an impromptu news conference to temper the vitriol.

It’s a move that is common for politicians or public figures to make when less-than-popular quotes are revealed to the public. Backtracking, denying events happened, or blaming others for misquoting them are among the tactics often used to try and erase embarrassing statements.

Romney chose not to go that route, and for that, I applaud him.

While he did clarify that his comments were “not elegantly stated,” he was firm in his position that there was a large portion of Americans who would support Barack Obama solely because his policies allowed them to not pay taxes.

I’m not defending Romney’s comments, nor do I wish to debate the never-ending conflict between liberal and conservative economic principles (at least, not in this particular space).

However, I am encouraged whenever public figures are frank with their beliefs and don’t backtrack on something they believe in.

In an age when political correctness is valued as highly as it is, too often individuals are afraid to say anything remotely averse to popular opinion. Unfortunately, this fear leads to people sugarcoating opinions, mincing their words and just flat out avoiding situations in which they may be forced to give an honest opinion.

While this attitude is the norm for public figures, especially ones whose jobs and careers are decided by public perception of them, I become extremely frustrated when this attitude invades the Calvin College community.

As a Christian community that values discourse, higher learning and grace, Calvin should be an institution where truth, understanding and honesty are prioritized. If that is the case, then ideally people should be free to give their honest opinions on issues and free to start conversations that lead to the growth and development of those involved.

Unfortunately, the more I write and edit for Chimes, the more I realize that even at Calvin, public image often is a higher priority than truth.

This week’s Chimes had several interesting leads for campus news, stories that students deserve and would want to know about. Unfortunately, whether people involved are asked to recount events or give an honest opinion on a situation, they’ve been too afraid to attach their name on the subject, making it impossible to report on.

The problem is two-fold.

First, it seems that often people at Calvin are extremely hesitant to publicly criticize the college or even different groups within the community. While I understand Calvin College’s desire to keep a positive image, it has caused the truth to be suppressed far too often. That’s not to say that students and the public should know every little detail about the inner workings of the college; that’s not practical on multiple levels.

But students and staff alike should be aware of issues on campus that affect their lives as students. As a campus, Calvin can grow and improve through honest discourse. Discussing only the positives and filtering out anything remotely negative is not a policy of honesty.

Second, people are afraid to attach their names to any opinion that may differ from anybody else’s, even if their opinion is well-reasoned and thought out. How as a community can we grow if we are afraid to even begin conversation?

If we’re too afraid to share our opinions with others, to firmly take a stand on our position, then maybe we should take a second look at those opinions. If those opinions stand up to our own scrutiny, perhaps it’s time to introduce them to others. Only then does growth begin.

At Calvin, the core beliefs of creation, fall and redemption are referred to daily. But a huge part of the Christian faith is our continual sanctification.

Shouldn’t that sanctification include our thoughts and opinions as well?

Shouldn’t we start the conversation?

About the Author

Kyle Rodriguez

Kyle Rodriguez is the Chimes lead campus news editor for the 2012-13 school year.

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