Politics has seeped into every possible crevice of our lives. It occupies our televisions, our newspapers, our Facebook feeds, and our conversations with friends. It’s inescapable, and it’s exhausting. There is nothing wrong with political parties, and the binding affiliation that one uses to direct their vote, but there is something wrong with such drastic political division that we can’t even talk to each other. When you unfriend people–both online and in real life–who dare state an opinion contrary to your own, it is doing nothing positive for anyone.
When will it be enough?
- Will it be when teachers have to run against each other and affiliate themselves with a party? Will it be when our name tags read “Hello My Name Is…. I belong to the … party”?
- Will it be when parents disown children whose views deviate from their own?
- Will it be when Tinder profiles reads “John Smith, Republican” or “Jane Johnson, Democrat”?
This dystopian version of democratic government –where political party means everything and meaningful, open-minded conversation has no place–seems more imminent than ever before.
I don’t care what political ideology you subscribe to–red, blue, green, orange, purple or rainbow–if we continue to alienate and judge each other based on party affiliation, and surround ourselves with only like-minded people, there will be no progress. When a Democrat sees something on Fox News, they automatically discount and ignore it. Similarly, when Democrats hear a Republican’s plan for the economy, they scoff and take the opposite position, without really listening to what they had to say. The same goes for Republicans. A Republican sees their liberal cousin at a protest and discounts the concerns they felt so strongly about as unimportant, and the cousin as a whiney crybaby. They watch Tomi Lahren and repost her rants on Facebook without considering the people behind her anger. There are real people with real problems and real ideas about how to fix them, but Tomi Lahren just yells about how they are wrong or unworthy of sympathy. Everyone does it, we’re all equally guilty.
I understand that political parties are an inevitable aspect of democratic government, but the example being set in Washington is trickling down into our lives at the community level. I think people off all political beliefs can agree that Barack Obama could not get countless reasonable laws past solely because of staunch opposition by close-minded Republicans in Congress. And now Donald Trump–and every future president, for that matter–will face the same harsh, unyielding opposition. American citizens have come to expect an inability to compromise in our elected officials, but that doesn’t make it okay.
I believe the most frightening part of this hyper-political world we live in is closer to home than we imagine. While it is not easy to ignore the politicians in Washington that cannot get along, it is even harder to ignore the sad state of affairs in your own school, family, and town. You can always shut off the TV, close your laptop and throw away the newspaper. I’m not saying you should, but you can. What we cannot avoid is the people we are constantly surrounded with. Yet, we try. We unfriend them on social media, avoid conversation with them in real life, and stop spending time with them. But this tendency to ignore the ideas and opinions we disagree with is not only detrimental to our social lives and wellbeing, it is detrimental to the country. You don’t have to share views with your parents, siblings, friends, teachers, coaches, or coworkers, but you do have to see them and you do have to talk to them. So why not tone down the political jabs and try to find common ground?
Maybe your Republican friend agrees that abortion should be legal. Maybe your Democrat friend is okay with gun ownership. If they’re not, maybe you can figure out why. I’m not saying you should shove your political beliefs down everyone’s throat, but you should not ignore all other beliefs and remain silent. The country needs conversation and compromise. The people around you may have valid concerns and alternate solutions you’ve never considered. Our generation needs to be the generation to expect our leaders to come to the table on issues and be open-minded.
Drawing partisan lines so distinct that there is no room for flexibility has not worked, is not working now, and will never work in the future. We can’t keep politics out of our lives or out of the news, but we don’t have to let it divide us and define who we are.