One or our RiverTown reporters has a favorite question he likes to ask interviewees: What one thing do you believe everyone should have, regardless of cost?
The answers range from nobel (peace, financial security and happiness) to sweet, such as when a child lobbies for free ice cream for life or those magical objects called toys. One young lady's answer was a best friend.
There is one thing we wish everyone could have, and it's free: an open mind. We know already that everyone has an opinion.
The world we live in today is causing uncertainty, fear for the future and skepticism in many of us. Topics such as health care access, politics, abortion, homelessness, food insecurity, the judicial system, Medicaid, religion, property law, etc. are hot, bringing with them the power to tear friends, neighbors and family members who have differing opinions apart.
One of America's best attributes is that we're allowed to have our own opinions. We're allowed to express them. We don't have to agree with the majority. We can do our own research, draw our own conclusions, decide what fits best into our value systems. We can share our opinions with the world via platforms such as letters to the editor, editorials such as this one, social media or even shouting from the street corner (though that is unpleasant in humid weather and might not be effective if you're annoying your neighbors).
But one thing people need to remember is, it's OK if someone doesn't agree with you.
It's not OK to disparage someone if they don't agree with you. It's not OK to mock them, try to make them look a fool or insult them. If you truly want to change someone's mind, going at them like a battering ram probably isn't the most effective way.
We receive a lot of letters to the editor. That means our readers are engaged. They care about what's happening in their communities at home, in the region and nation.
We want to hear from you. We want to know what you think. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But please, remember that not everyone will agree with you, and that's OK. It does not warrant a spiteful, hotheaded response if someone doesn't. Calm and factual goes much further. We stress the factual part — oh, that all-important open mind. Other writers have something to contribute to our democratic dialogue, too.