Sensitive Topics and Respectful Debate in the U.S.
The U.S. is known for having an open and accepting culture. We pride ourselves on our diversity and range of opportunities available for all kinds of people. Everyone has the right to free speech and their own ideas. However, many people in the U.S. have differing opinions on certain topics that are important to our society. With the presidential elections coming up this fall, you will probably notice even more debate in the media and perhaps among friends and colleagues.
While in the U.S., we would encourage you to learn more about the issues that Americans are currently debating. You will notice there are different groups of people who have passionate opinions on both sides of certain issues, such as lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) rights, the economy and taxes, abortion, health care, contraception, separation of church and state, and many others. It is important to make an effort to understand both sides of sensitive issues and be respectful of individuals whose ideas are different from your own.
You may find that many Americans are not comfortable discussing their ideas about certain issues. Many individuals prefer to keep their opinions to themselves in order to protect their privacy and to avoid making friends or colleagues uncomfortable if they hold differing views. Other individuals will speak very openly about their views and opinions, some of which may differ greatly from your own. Before you engage in a discussion about issues regarding politics, religion or sexuality, you should make sure that you have a good relationship with the other person or people with whom you are talking. It is better to have a debate with people you know well and with whom you can have a mutually respectful conversation and to avoid asking strangers their opinions on certain topics, as it may offend them.
The key to any debate is respect. Make sure you try to understand other's arguments and points of view. They may have a different background or experience that has formed their thoughts and so have a reached a conclusion with which you may not agree. However, they have a right to those ideas. In the United States, it is not acceptable to harass or insult anyone based on their political, social, or religious persuasions. While friendly debate is encouraged, make sure to maintain a respectful environment when doing so. If you can do that, you will be able to thoughtfully participate in conversations regarding sensitive topics in American society.
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