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Letter: Purpose of sharing opinions

Michael Bennett’s column last week, in which he described the hateful response to the editorial about standing with immigrants, illustrates something that has puzzled me for some time. My dictionary defines “opinion” thus: “1. a belief, not based on absolute certainty or positive knowledge but on what seems true, valid or probable to one’s own mind; judgment. 2. an evaluation, impression or estimation of the quality or worth of a person or thing.”

I have noticed that as our politics have become more polarized, the point of opinion has shifted in the common estimation. It seems we now feel the need to defend our opinions as though disagreements were personal attacks. I always thought that my opinion was only the sum of my experience, exposure, thoughts and feelings on a subject at a particular time. The point of sharing them is so that one’s own can be shaped and enlarged through listening to others’.

Have we lost the sense what it means to be one citizen among many, with a point of view that is necessarily limited and who needs to understand others’ in order to fully participate in a democratic society? I fear that “American Exceptionalism” takes this view of the perspectives of other people similarly, as attacks rather than opportunities to broaden and deepen our ability to participate in the give and take of a community of nations.


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