Opinions should not be facts

We are America. The land where percentages fabricate the rigorous line between citizenry’s aristocrats and bourgeois. The land where our freedoms are no longer antiqued by voice but by superficial outlets such as social networking. In many ways we are still the timely and orthodox “land of the free and home of the brave.” If you asked me, however, we are just a nation mocking the border between radicalism and liberalism and pushing the boundaries of how we express beliefs: We are the self-confessed opinionation.

Perhaps I am living some brainstorming-induced fallacy, or perhaps I am rounding third and about to head home. But the culture of opinion has been thriving since the days of Plato’s “The Republic,” highlighting the divided line that disjoints the visible and intelligible world. Even daring to categorize opinions and illusions (Eikasia) as the lowest level of reality, eternal and unchanging. Needless to say the Founding Fathers must be shaking in their graves … in perfect unison.

The culture of opinion has appeared to manifest itself more recently than ever, sparking what I consider a miniature revolution. Most notably paved by the independent Westboro Baptist Church, notorious for their extreme stances on topics such as homosexuality, religion and race. Supplemented by the Boy Scouts of America’s exclusion of openly homosexual members and Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy denouncing same-sex marriage.

Yet through the overly public right-and-wrong tug-of-war, passion is not overlooked and certainly not underestimated. Some of my views may cohabitate peacefully with those of these major organizations, and some are just ready for a divorce. Regardless, it is not the opinion that matters. What matters is that the opinion is expressed.

Prior to the recent opening in downtown Chicago, I had never eaten at a Chick-fil-A. I had not been aware of the Westboro Church’s picketing protest at the funeral of Matthew Shepard who was beaten to death due to his sexual orientation in 1998. Yet now I am actively involved, across religious and geographical terrain, in joining the opinionation. My involvement spawned years after these events took place; I was reliving a history that may have not been of my time but certainly of personal significance.

As a gay man, I should not have to feel that it is my obligation to combat the views of Chick-fil-A, the Westboro Church and the Boy Scouts of America — because I sure as hell don’t. Rather I feel as though it is my duty to combat those misconstruing the extremes of freedom of speech. What is stopping me from sending flowers to the doorsteps of Fred Phelps, Wayne Perry and Dan Cathy? Are they not instigating Americans to become more voiced and active in modernity’s hottest debates? And are they not also testing the very foundations on which our country’s freedoms lie? Protests thought of and constructed in just a day’s work, common citizens sharing their opinions directly with America’s famed and prestigious, youth finding the courage to express themselves via viral videos. These are true American concepts. These are the methods of expression we allow to be overshadowed by the sometimes harshness, powerfulness and timidity accessorizing the content of some opinions.

It is almost ironic how the word tolerance is consistently thrown around while addressing major issues such as religion, sexual orientation and ideology differences. America is preoccupied with a standstill between left and right, neglecting the passion that ignites the two. In fact, I see people preaching tolerance of opinion being the most intolerant of them all. We must conform to the notion that opinions are interpretations of facts and interpretations only. Breaching this notion leads to what I consider the downfall of the opinionation, acting on opinions as though they are facts. We become vulnerable to an ambition so potent that we violate our own morals to raise awareness.

Two millennia later, Plato still has it spot on. Opinions and illusions … they are the farthest from reality, inferior by empirical and theoretical science and philosophical understanding. They should not consume us, they should drive us. They should not make us stubborn, they should make us broad-minded. They should not induce fear, they should produce bravery.

Adam Huska is a junior in ACES. He can be reached at [email protected]