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Thursday, June 1, 2023

The right that doesn’t make you right

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Antonio Gabriel Tongco
Student-journalist, researcher, and poet. Part-time cat for Taylor Swift.

“I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” 

When arguments between people become too tiring to settle, “respecting each other’s opinions” often seals the deal. Still, there will always be opinions that are more valuable and reliable than others.

Opinions in a democratic country are deemed sacred, using “freedom of speech” as an unbreakable armor. While it is constitutional, the right to express our beliefs doesn’t magically turn them into reality.

If there were no right or wrong opinions, forget going to a doctor for checkups if your mom already said that it’s just a fever, or maybe, submit your thesis without citing any sources if you’ve already provided your input. Would you do that?

Of course not. Things like gravity or dinosaurs don’t cease to exist simply because some people don’t think they do.

Like John Oliver, a former late-night television host, said, “You don’t need people’s opinion on a fact,” because if we did, we might as well start polls asking what number is bigger between 5 and 15, or if owls and hats are real.

Sometimes, it’s not your “opinion,” there were just things you didn’t know, or you were just flat out wrong. It is also important to point out that there are opinions that are founded on pure emotions, and you don’t get to put that on the same pedestal as an educated one based on facts. Yes, we are entitled to our own opinions, but that doesn’t make them immediately valid.

As a kid, I used to believe in fighting for everyone’s right to free speech, even dying for it, as the quote said, but I grew up and learned that some people’s opinions are oppressive, dehumanizing, and uninformed. I am not obligated to respect that.

Before we become assertive of our opinions, we should ask ourselves what they are founded on. It’s easy to form beliefs, but often difficult to defend them with facts.

We can agree to disagree about your favorite color, or whether or not you like pineapples on your pizza, but not about you thinking that the LGBTQ+ don’t deserve the same rights, or that the only problem poor people have is their lack of “discipline and hard work.”

Witnessing a single incident doesn’t make a valid opinion, and neither does reading one article; in a world where information is a few clicks away, we have no excuse for our shallow, uneducated views of the world. We have to keep in mind that our opinions can be wrong or right. After all, Leonardo da Vinci had warned us that “The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.”

It’s alarming that many people often feel as if education that challenges their way of thinking is equivalent to an attack on their beliefs, or themselves. This entitlement is starting to build communities that fail to discern opinions from misconceptions, and completely ignore any kind of development.

As kids, we formed our little bubbles of thought with no consequences, but part of growing up is realizing that they fuel actions, and end up actually affecting others. We have the right to swing our fists, but that right ends where another person’s nose begins. Therefore, we can only be entitled to opinions we can defend — with facts and evidences instead of pride and emotions.

In the age of social media, we wear our opinions like crowns. Would you flaunt yours, if you knew that it was covered in rust?

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