Earlier this month, attendees at Middlebury College disrupted a lecture by controversial author Charles Murray.

Murray, who has been labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a “white nationalist” who uses “racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics,” was to be questioned on stage by a liberal professor who would challenge Murray’s views and counter his arguments. But the protestors disrupted the lecture and subsequently disrupted a closed-door debate between the two men.

Colleges and universities are meant to be crucibles for developing one’s mind. Students should be confronted by conflicting ideas, sometimes even repulsive ones, so that they can learn how to debate and counter those arguments in the real world. Sheltering liberal or conservative students from the outside world is a great disservice and leads to even more polarization of our national political discourse.

Tomi Lahren, the 24-year-old conservative firebrand known for unapologetic, rapid-fire tirades, has recently made the rounds on liberal comedy shows. While comedy show hosts may fundamentally disagree with her message and abhor her politics, they almost universally respect her passion. But last week, Lahren’s show was banned from TheBlaze, the punditry satellite network owned by Glenn Beck, for statements she made on a talk show that she was pro-choice. She rightly refused to apologize, but because she broke from one plank of the right’s platform, she was fired.

This national polarization is not exclusive to one side of the aisle, and it should concern us all. In a Pew Research study published last June, 49 percent of Republicans say they’re afraid of the Democratic Party and 55 percent of Democrats say they fear the GOP.

This is illogical for a functional democracy. To paraphrase a former future president’s 2004 speech, there is no Blue America, there is no Red America, there is only one America. Liberals and conservatives are neighbors, even in the reddest or bluest states. In our newsroom, which is more attuned and vocal about politics than most workplaces, staff with different political leanings work together every day to produce a newspaper for our readers.

One of our regular letter writers disagrees with many of my editorials and commentary. He and I regularly correspond privately, disagreeing on national politics, sociology and, most recently, the fundamental nature of entropy in the universe.

Despite this, we agree about many things in our city. We’ve gone to lunch together and — never tell him this or I’ll lose leverage in our arguments — he’s one of my most favorite letter writers whose emails I eagerly anticipate.

The United States was not built as a unitary state, but as a federation of individual states with vastly different ideas. Our national government intentionally pits conflicting factions against each other so representatives are forced to reach a compromise. There’s a reason why the Article I of the U.S. Constitution is about Congress — national power is meant to be in the hands of rhetoricians and orators persuading each other, not the president.

The “rival” of Congress should not be representatives and senators across the aisle but the occupant of the White House, whoever it may be.

We must debate and argue and disagree. It makes us stronger to see the flaws in our arguments, then learn how to rebut them with logic and rhetorical strategies.

If you’re a liberal, read the National Review. If you’re conservative, read the New Republic. If you’re a moderate, take what makes sense to you from either side. No matter what, be unapologetic, independent and open-minded.

“E pluribus unum” — “out of many, one” — is the motto of the United States, inscribed on all of our currency. Do not read it as a declaration of what we are but as a directive of what we must strive to be.

Christopher Fox Graham

Managing Editor