I certainly never intended to make this blog political—and I still don’t. I’m actually not even going to talk about politics here.

I want to talk about ideas and curiosity.

Susan King, dean of the UNC School of Media and Journalism, opened this year’s Roy H. Park Distinguished Lecture for the keynote speaker, Tucker Carlson:

“We are not afraid of debate in this school.”

Tucker Carlson Park Lecture 2018

I then thought, what if I chose to go on some brazen, heated rant and share political ideas—both to which I agreed and disagreed—with the world?

What if.

My natural reactions to these hypotheticals were sweaty palms, a tinge of nausea, and a racing mind. “Who would disagree and retaliate?” “What would people—employers—think of me if I shared political ideas and stepped far out of my comfort zone?”

Who would disagree with me and say nothing? Who would outwardly agree and not challenge me to think differently?

Am I afraid of a debate?

Gary Kayye, the professor of the course for which I am writing this blog, told us to steer clear of writing about politically-focused ideas unless you’re actually going into politics, because you never know what employers will see it, disagree with you, and subsequently be less likely to hire you.

It’s good advice, and, unfortunately, I don’t disagree. It takes a certain amount of emotional intelligence to know your audience—when to post certain things and when not to. You need to get all your facts straight before you open your mouth, but It’s also normal—human, actually—to not know everything. This isn’t anything new. But today, we are intrinsically linked to our beliefs—we pigeonhole ourselves and others into one side of a dichotomy we like to call partisanship. What, exactly, do our views have to do with our work ethics, aptitudes, and moral compasses? Some may say that certain views do, in fact, overlap with an ability to be a kindhearted, positive-contributor to society, and I agree. But shouldn’t we have at least the option to say what we want without fearing our reputation, our humanness, our ability to work, will be somehow changed or degraded simply by doing so? The rigidity might be slowing us down.

You pick a side, you stick to it. You tailor your thoughts and beliefs to think and feel this way–you search for the facts that make you comfortable—a problem Carlson claimed college students know all too well.

Passion is necessary. But what about the questions we’re forgetting to ask when we don’t check our own biases first—or speak out against those of others? It takes courage and effort to admit when you’re wrong and redirect your thinking.

Carlson opened his speech with levity: “I know not everyone was thrilled that I came…”

Such a preface is both intriguing and haunting at the same time—nonetheless, it speaks volumes to the power of our First Amendment. It may reveal his personal view of an overwhelming sense one-sidedness in this area, but the fact that he was able to say it should be reassuring. As much as we’d like to drown out the voices we hate hearing, we need to hear them. Imagine if we could snap our fingers and eradicate every uncomfortable voice. What truths—what light—would we be losing? I think we’re all aware of the repercussions of censorship.

Maybe the answers we need are in the questions. We’re especially eager, as journalists, to get the facts immediately and meet that deadline. And once we do, are we willing to challenge, once again, the facts we’ve been given?

Carlson said you’re always blinded by your own biases—and that skepticism should be the driving force in journalism, not partisanship.

“What drives me insane…is the credulousness of most reporters,” he said.

I know I’ve found myself mesmerized in an interview by a source in power, soaking in every word he or she was saying at the time. Deception would reach an all-time high if we only had one side of the story to hear, though. We have the right to complain, gripe, quarrel. We also have the right to utilize intentional deafness. But in the end, who would that benefit?

If we’re not listening, who is? And if we’re not doing the speaking, is someone speaking for us?