As a young, politically active student on campus, I appreciate and value any and all conversations I have on political issues with other individuals. Having these conversations allows me to talk with people about important issues in today’s society with the aim of both understanding their point of view and conveying my point of view as effectively as possible. Sometimes, as a Republican, I find it hard to convey why I believe what I believe, as well as understand where the beliefs I hold come from. As a result of this, I have dug deeper on the issues, done my research, and educated myself. Having delved this deep, I have come to realize that not everyone has done this for themselves. I have heard people say things such as, “keep out those illegal immigrants,” and “everyone has a right to free healthcare,” as well as other large statements without being able to elaborate fully on the basis for those statements. Having an opinion on key issues like this is just fine, but not having an informed opinion that is formulated through a thorough analysis on the topic of your opinion is irresponsible.

If one wants to responsibly discuss an issue that is important to them, an issue that may require a more in-depth understanding than average like healthcare or immigration, one needs to have done their research. Simply stating we should build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants because you think that they should have come here the legal way and that they do not deserve to live in the U.S. because they are not official citizens is ignorant of the real depth of our immigration system.

One could think of this kind of research as a process of simply asking the question “Why?” five times in a row, or until you think you have arrived at the root of the issue at hand. An example of this would be the debate surrounding gun control. “Why do Republicans want less gun control?” Because it is believed that more gun control is only going to make it harder for law abiding citizens to obtain firearms. “Why?” Because it is believed that criminals are going to find a way to obtain a firearm if they really want to, regardless of current state gun regulations. “Why?” Because the black market of firearms operates independently of any gun regulations, which allows for the buying and selling of firearms freely. “Why?” Because criminals are resourceful people and will find new and innovative ways to continue their black-market businesses regardless of regulations. A proposed solution based on this analysis would have to involve legislative action to combat the illegal black market of firearms, such as giving law enforcement more money to crack down on the illegal buying and selling of firearms on the black market.

Another example of the “five whys” analysis can be done on gun control again, but end up with a completely different conclusion. “Why do Republicans want less gun control?” Because they see more regulation by the federal government as federal overreach. “Why?” Because the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution states that all powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved for the state governments, which translates into the belief that state governments are the ones that should be passing legislation on gun control. “Why?” This prevents the federal government from having too much power over the American people. “Why shouldn’t the federal government have more power?” Because power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. A limited federal government ensures that even though the government may get corrupt (which they kind of are already), they would not have enough power over the people to do any real harm. A solution to this would then have to revolve around not passing federal legislation, but encouraging states to pass their own legislation around gun control and possibly hold them accountable to passing something.

Having an educated opinion, rather than one that is based on loyalty to your party or sheer emotional attachment to the issue, is a prerequisite to having productive conversations around divisive topics. I urge people to never accept beliefs at face value, but rather have an inquisitive mindset about issues, so as to build an all-inclusive understanding of the topic at hand.

There is a phrase said at the end of the safety video Delta Air Lines plays for all their passengers that comes to mind when thinking about this topic: “We believe the world is only foreign if it’s unfamiliar.” I believe that positions on political issues are only foreign and unsettling if they are unfamiliar. Use your time wisely to educate yourself on not only your own convictions but also your opposition’s convictions. The more you know on all sides of an issue, the less shocked you will be when hearing opinions that you disagree with. This will not only help you become more grounded in what you believe, but also help you better debate your opposition in discussions to come.