Every morning when I wake up, I immediately open the New York Times app on my phone to read the morning briefing to which I’m subscribed. I’m instantly informed of worldwide events from the past 24 hours. Then, I scroll through my Facebook feed and find out what my friends think about these same topics.
It would be nice if there was always an agreed upon story or set of facts, but instead we live in a world where nearly every topic is up for debate, and there’s always so much information, much of it contradictory, that it’s hard to know what’s true and what isn’t. This social climate, combined with a world where social media has just as much say as more traditional news sources like newspapers, makes forming opinions nearly impossible for me.
Take for example the Colin Kaepernick situation. Should I believe that he’s disrespectful towards America and its veterans when he refuses to stand during the national anthem? Or is he making a statement against the oppression that people of color face in the US, a country that’s supposed to represent freedom and equality? This pattern of conflicting opinions constantly being shoved in my face has led me to become somewhat afraid of sharing an opinion, for fear of being on the wrong side of things.
The first time I heard about the Kaepernick dilemma was from my friend, a Republican. She showed me some articles and shared her opinion, which matched up with the “he’s being disrespectful” side. Since this was the only opinion I had heard so far, her ideas made sense to me. However, after talking to my more liberal friends, who I generally agree with on these types of issues, I couldn’t believe that I once thought differently.
Instead of getting annoyed with myself for agreeing with what I believed was the “wrong side of history” viewpoint, I need to be more open minded. It’s important to acknowledge that multiple sides often have valid arguments. Where you come in is figuring out which ideas you agree with, and that’s the hardest part for me.
Last year, I was assigned an essay on the Iran nuclear deal. I was supposed to give background information, research the opinions for and against the deal, and then pick a side and share my own opinion. After completing the first two steps of a very thorough investigation, I found myself stuck. Not only was I stuck because I procrastinated until the last night, as per usual, and had a mental breakdown because I was truly convinced the world was so screwed up and heading for destruction, but also because I didn’t trust myself to unequivocally decide whether the Iran deal should pass or not. In the end, although I sided with the pro-deal side, I wasn’t completely confident in my answer. To quote my essay, “I do not believe that I am educated enough on the topic for my opinion to be totally valid. The only way I could feel assured is if I either was President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, or the heads of intelligence on both sides, or talked to them.”
By invalidating my own opinions, I make it impossible for anyone else to tear me down for having them. It’s very common in my school to overhear a sentence starting with, “I don’t really know but…” While this is something that I deal with constantly, I know this feeling of self-doubt is one with which I am not alone. It’s sad that society has pushed us so far to need to have an opinion on everything.
It seems the societal expectation is that everyone needs to have an opinion and should defend it relentlessly. Instead of engaging in meaningful debate with others, and then possibly changing our minds if we feel so persuaded, we are expected to stick with our view no matter what, even if we are proven wrong. And if the worst case scenario of you being proven wrong does occur, you disregard that information and try to discredit the other person. This is a huge problem. Since there is so much information from all different points of view readily available, it is impossible to know if what you are saying is fact or fiction. This leads to people who may not necessarily be more informed, shutting down others just because they are more outspoken, not because they are right.
As a young woman, I feel an extra push to share my thoughts. There is a constant feminist voice in my head telling me to be that candid girl who can confidently speak her mind on any issue. However, sometimes I just don’t know yet what to think and say. And that’s okay. Contrary to popular belief, it is natural to not always have a strong opinion, and that should be embraced. Most importantly, people need to be more careful when forming an opinion, and more open to hearing what others have to say.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Olsberg, Eden. "Strongly Undecided ." 17 November 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 11, 2020) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/strongly-undecided>.