I don’t know if I’ve ever felt as strongly about anything than I do about this. Okay, I take that back. I usually feel this strongly about everything; I was just saying that for effect. I haven’t always been as opinionated as I am now. I don’t try to argue all of the time, but sometimes I just can’t help it. I don’t know if passionate conviction is a result of education, time, experience, or something else, but it has squeezed its way into my bloodstream. There is no doubt about it: I believe in opinion.
As a child, whenever I was asked a question, my standard answer would be: “I don’t care.” Would you like rice or beans with your taco? I don’t care. What movie would you like to see? I don’t care. Where would you like to go to middle school? I don’t care. Now, though, I cannot stand it when people tell me they don’t care. How can this be? Everyone should hold even an inkling of an opinion about any subject, no matter how small. The absence of opinion, though it may appear to others as only innocent indecision, truly vexes me.
Opinion and the ability to voice that opinion are opportunities afforded to very few, and it is more than unfortunate that those who have these chances take little advantage of them. I have the ability to choose between chocolate and vanilla as well as CBS and NBC. I can decide where we want to work and who will represent me in Congress (well, almost). To forfeit that ability to apathy is to abandon what may be the most important privilege I have.
Because I believe so strongly in opinion, it is natural that I also believe in the necessity of sharing opinion. Disagreement is healthy. Argument is even healthier. When people argue, both learn something about the other side. Being on my school’s debate team has taught me this invaluable lesson. Learning about both sides of an argument—and being able to defend both sides—is a priceless proficiency. I am often asked why I choose to devote so much extra time to researching and preparing to argue. To this, I give a simple answer: I enjoy it. I enjoy the strenuous task of learning hundreds of arguments and how to counter them as well as to support them. To me, winning a round is less important than that hour-long pursuit of understanding and opinion.
I can’t pinpoint a time in my life when I stopped saying, “I don’t care.” It didn’t happen in the course of a week, month, or year. Now, I believe everything I say. To have, share, and be convicted of an opinion is of supreme importance. Without opinion, there is no change, and without change there is nothing to look forward to. Without something to look forward to, the future might as well not exist.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.