WARNING: The following is a post about opinions (imagine that: the title is straightforward). You may or may not agree with the opinions mentioned in this post. Your concerns are legitimate, and you should be civil if you choose to talk about them. If you don’t want to read this, that’s ok, too: Here are some comics you can read instead, or you can watch a video about new discoveries of the Velociraptor.

ANOTHER WARNING: There is swearing. Deal with that as you will.

Moving on.

The internet fascinates me. Mostly because on one page, you can find one conversation that’s meaningful and honest and then a conversation right below that basically boils down to “SHE COULD BE HOTTER LOL SHE LOOKS LIKE A PIG.”

Everyone who uses the internet knows this, and they know it exists everywhere, from Reddit to Tumblr to The New York Times website.

For right now I’m going to ignore the trolls (who doesn’t?) and talk more about the importance of recognizing what opinions are – because I think in this age we’ve forgotten.

C.G.P. Grey actually brought this up in a Q & A video he made. Since it’s a long video, I’m just going to share with you my favorite quote from the video that’s about opinions and people:

“The trick is to keep your identity separate from your opinions. They are objects in a box you carry with you and should be easily replacable if they turn out to be no good. If you think the opinions in the box are who you are then you will cling to them despite any evidence to the contrary. Bottom line, If you want to always be right, you need to always be prepared to change your mind.”

I love this quote because it’s true: there are plenty of good people out there who have bad opinions, but if they change their mind, their opinions become better. They’re still good people, just with better ideas.

Lately there’s been a story circulating around discussion circles I’m a part of, including the Facebook group Diversity in Media Now. This story is about how a black singer changed the minds of several KKK members and even broke apart the Maryland branch of the Klan. (link to read it is here.)

How did he do it?

By talking to them and listening. By encouraging them that their opinions are not who they are, because if they can change their opinions, they can help make the world a better place for it.

I’d like to think I had a similar effect on a conservative couple I encountered on my road trip from Ohio to Arizona in September last year.

I stopped in Springfield, Missouri for a night and I decided to go across the parking lot to a sushi bar next to the hotel (because I had never been to a sushi bar and I wanted to try it out).

So I went inside and ordered my food. And a couple comes in and sits next to me at the bar and they order food.

There was one point where I tried this eel with some kind of orange spice on top. That was when my mouth felt like lava was burning my taste buds and I had to spit it back out.

The husband from the couple noticed this and was like, “Not your thing, huh?”

And we just started talking from there.

We even talked about the things we did for a living and I mentioned that I work as a comic artist on Validation. Of course, before I mentioned it I said, “I make comic strips about social justice issues,” and THEN mentioned it (because it’s kind of odd to just jump in and say “I make trans comics!”). While the wife wasn’t interested (She explicitly said, “I’ll just live in my black and white world and call it good!”), her husband was more talkative.

So the both of us talked about a variety of issues and we eventually got to welfare. And it’s here that I’d like to think I opened up his mind for consideration on some issues.

Because he had said, “You would think with food stamps they would get better food than pizza and pop and all that other shit?”

Now this was before I discovered the Cracked.com  article about the habits of poor people (Habit #1: You Eat Crappy Food, mostly because you need food that won’t rot, and the stuff that doesn’t rot is generally pre-packaged).

But my response was, “Part of that, though, is that there are companies who make contracts with the government to make their food cheaper on food stamps. Most of those contracts are with Coca Cola and other companies that don’t have the healthiest food and they’re lobbying to stay on SNAP.”

There’s an article here. Under the heading “Appeasing The Junk Food Lobby” was where most of my arguing points came from. That, and I come from a military family, and half of the conversations I hear are about how the government is fucking up because of the contracts they sign with other companies.

Back to the topic at hand: I’d like to think I opened his mind about that possibility. He certainly opened up my eyes about how conservatives think, why they think the way they do, and even got me to reconsider my old opinion about gun regulations.

(Alright fine I’ll get it out here: if you use the reasoning of “I need to protect my family” as your reason for owning guns, then you need to consider the possibility that you’re fucking with shit you shouldn’t be messing around with in the first place.)

(However, if you live in the back-woods country and you primarily hunt deer or other food animals and you don’t use guns on people, it’s totally fine. I grew up in the country where my parents ran a hunting and fishing store and I regularly saw them tag deer and post notices about how much hunting was allowed that season. It’s regulated for a very good reason. That, and there were times where we didn’t have any meat in the house other than deer meat, and without that deer meat we wouldn’t have eaten that winter.)

(There’s a difference between shooting at people to be a gangster and using guns as a carefully-managed tool so you don’t starve).

Before we talked I was of the opinion that guns needed to be off the streets, period. But gun rights is a bigger gray area than what the media or the NRA would have you believe.

Just like life. Just like people.

Be always open to others’ opinions, and listen. If they’re credible and don’t come from a place of hate, be considerate.

You don’t have to change your mind with every conversation you have. Just don’t hold on to your opinions too stubbornly.

That’s all for now.