I believe any opinion which is worth holding is debatable. I came to this conviction reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X, where Malcolm X, in prison, joined the debating club and formed most of his political opinions not through solitary research, though he did a lot of that, but through debate. Trying to follow in his footsteps, I advocate my position on issues as strongly as possible, and see where other people find holes.
Many of my beliefs (whether on race issues, religion or abortion) originated from solitary research and observation. I think of these initial opinions as lumpy rocks. One can be formed of the best sediment (the most well-reviewed journals) but until it has entered into agitator of debate, it is impossible to know what is true and what is trash.
My initial opinion on abortion was formed in the kind of echo-chamber described above–I learned my beliefs from my parents and my friends, who all pretty much believed the same thing. I can say with some shame that my opinion could have been summarized by some of the bumper-stickers you see on cars: Woman’s Right to Choose! Her body, Her Choice! Come Back When You Have a Uterus!
A lumpy rock indeed. And a weak one, not because the core of it was weak, I still hold firmly a basic abhorrence of forcing a woman to bear a child she does not want stronger than an abhorrence of ending a potential life, but because it was un-nuanced; un-subtle; un-educated.
With the efforts of many friends, particularly my Karate teacher who patiently and kindly challenged my bumper-sticker-quoting, lumpy opinion, I now have a more complex opinion on abortion. However my commitment to debate cannot stop there, because then my opinions would develop new lumps and I would never know it. In the process of honing my opinion on abortion, I spent some time interviewing the incoming Aimee, President of the Respect for Life Club of CMU.
Ostensibly, our interview was part of a project I designed in my Humanities Scholars Program class to study the performance of protest outside of the Allegheny Women’s Health Center in East Liberty, Pittsburgh. But the project itself was itself part of my commitment to having a strongly composed opinion on abortion.
In listening to Aimee, I discovered new trash and underdeveloped portions of my opinion–I did not honestly believe anyone at Carnegie Mellon would argue that contraception was un-natural and unacceptable, while holding a pro-life stance, much less that this was the jointly-held belief of all of the members of the Respect Life Club at CMU. This was ignorance on my part, and a weakness in my opinion.
Without this kind of exchange of information, our generation will be stuck in the same bumper-sticker flinging contest of our parents–our opinions will remain lumpy, and we will never stand together on the common group which we share.
Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it’s just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.