I attended Bernie Sanders' Town Hall Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona on July 17. Since I recently just turned 18 and with my first presidential election right around the corner, I figured that I should learn about every up and coming candidate on both sides of the political spectrum. What better way to do so than through attending political rallies? Instead of hearing bandwagon general opinions that were readily given by younger supporters, I wanted to discover my own opinions on candidates and why they were supported. Although I did come into contact with individuals who were well versed in regards to politics, a majority of people seemed to only know the surface of the candidate they supported. In turn, they could not go into detail of their reasons for support. For this very reason, it is important as an individual in a democratic republic such as the United States of America to not only know the side of an argument that one supports, but the opposing side(s) as well.
During my senior year of high school, I participated in Speech & Debate, specifically in a two-person form of debate called "Public Forum" for a short period of time. During a debate round, you have to be able to debate both the pros and cons of both sides. Topics for debate ranged from GMOs being outlawed, to free two-year community college education. While writing the debate cases, all research had to come from credible sources or else holes in the arguments would be discovered, pointed out and thus the argument proved invalid. Knowing both sides of an issue opened up my eyes to various opinions that did not just fit one specific archetype. This way of formulating an argument allows a debater to be more educated while at the same time understanding the opposing argument to the point that their own argument is that much stronger. This style of forming debate arguments carried over into everyday conversations, transforming petty arguments into lively discussions full of understanding and knowledge, eliminating the conversations of politics with half-baked opinions.
The question that started it all for me was: how can you fix or change a problem if you do not know the other side? This is not just in politics, but in other life situations such as trying to talk to a teacher about extra credit or at work with a project that involves various employees. Even Forbes.com's contributor Scott Yancey, CEO of the software company Cloudwords, states that one should be their own devil's advocate when trying to convince others. They have to know the other side so they can prepare statistics and figures to create a response.
Knowledge of a single side is great, but how well does that help if you do not understand the opposite view? Can common ground be achieved that way? Even getting someone to see your view halfway is better than no way at all.
My father always told me keep your friends close and your enemies closer (not that people on opposite sides of the political spectrum are enemies) and this rule is no exception to politics. So I challenge you to get to know one political issue from both sides in depth. Keep your thoughts open to both sides. You never know what you can learn because a point could be brought up that you haven't thought of before. Even if the other side seems wrong, at least you will somewhat be able to understand why people think the way that they do.
Follow T on Twitter @Tstatman