Asking Strangers Controversial Questions was originally published on an expired domain created for the Kent State and Anglo American University‘s Journalism Program sponsored by Prague Freedom Foundation that I participated in during the Winter Semester of 2014-2015.
I came to Cleveland with a very ambitious project in mind. I wanted to write a compelling article about abortion. I could already picture myself talking to pregnant girls who were considering abortion or those who had already had one. I thought I’d just ask one student and they’d give me several contacts willing to line up and tell me their personal life stories. A week and a half later and I only have three days left in Kent. Despite me trying really hard, I have found no one who has had or considered having an abortion.
I didn’t realize the cultural differences in openness about speaking about abortion. Everyone here is extremely friendly, but they need to be approached with care when it comes to such a sensitive topic. Many people who I approach won’t even utter the word ‘abortion’ or will say it in hushed tones. Sometimes their facial expression changes too – whether it’s in shock that I would ask a stranger such a delicate question or the amusement on a priests face when I ask for only 5 minutes of his time to explain the church’s complicated stance on this.
By asking many different strangers questions about abortion, I have learned not to judge a book by its cover. Some of the young college-aged students who I approach seemed very timid and closed-minded. On the other hand, those who I was the most nervous to approach, a local Catholic Church priest or an older Amish man were both happy to share their views and never once asked me about my religious views and showed no judgment towards me for asking this.
Taking Iva’s advice, I have also learned to introduce myself in a way that will make people comfortable speaking to be, before busting out the big guns. Being raised in an Americanized International School gave me the false impression of understanding American culture. But I have realized that I am only now beginning to discover it. I hope to use what I’ve learned to gather more information so that I’m able to give my paper the justice that such a controversial and important topic deserves.