Talking Through Differences

by Veena Raman

Dept. of Communication Arts & Sciences

In my CAS 137 Rhetoric and Civic life class, we have started discussing the connections between ideology, identity, power and rhetoric. This image has been a powerful way for us to discuss how our values and assumptions guide us when we interpret what we see. We have been deliberating how we identify what is civic and the choices we make when we talk to others.

This week, it has been good to examine our right to speak about issues that interest us and what criteria we use to decide which issues to discuss, when, and with whom.  With all the news media stories about gun violence, we are trying to understand why people have disagreements about gun rights and how to talk through our differences and find common ground. One of the questions the students posed to the class was, will we have a good discussion about any controversial topic if we knew, like in Texas, someone could be carrying a concealed gun and might use it if they got really angry?  We are all trying to work out when we absolutely must speak up about an issue, what might be the consequences of speaking if something is too offensive to talk about, and how we can make decisions about these topics.