What’s the matter with having an opinion?

Sometimes I despair of people. Shania Twain of all people recently apologised for saying she would likely have voted for Donald Trump after sections of social media slated her for it. Why? Why should she have to apologise for having an opinion? I don’t agree with what she said, in fact I vehemently disagree with it. But that does not mean she is not allowed an opinion. One of the founding principles of America is freedom of speech, exactly what Shania was doing, expressing an opinion. Having an opinion that differs from others is not a crime, it’s being a human being. If we all thought the same about everything, the world would be a very boring place. Not to mention the fact that Shania Twain is a country singer from Canada who can’t even vote in US presidential elections so why does anyone give a flying whotsit what she thinks about US presidential politics? She is an entertainer, what she sells is her singing voice and songs. She doesn’t sell her opinions but she is more than entitled to have them. She shouldn’t need to apologise for having an opinion that some do not share.

Trying to police thoughts and opinions is a ridiculous notion. It’s everywhere, students protesting about statues of men who have been dead for hundreds of years and buildings named after people who have been similarly dead for hundreds of years. The opinions of men and women long dead, which inevitably are abhorrent by modern standards, are only important in their historical context, to see where the human race has come from, how far we are on from where we were. Tearing down statues and renaming buildings is a wasted exercise. Tackle the discriminatory behaviour of today, not of 250 years ago. Focus on what’s happening today, not history. Putting trigger warnings on novels like To Kill A Mockingbird, because it uses language of its time that may no longer be acceptable is truly ridiculous. If Literature students can’t make that distinction, then they shouldn’t be doing a literature degree, as they have no appreciation of context.

Opinion, humour, offence, they’re all subjective. There will always be differences between people. Accept that and instead of trying to ban people from having a different point of view to you, talk about it and debate it. You may be surprised by how much you have in common.

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