This week I want to talk about a subject which I have found to be increasingly prevalent in our country over the past few years. That issue is how divided we have become as a nation. Whether you are a liberal, a conservative, or something in between, this is an article for you. I am not pandering to either side of the aisle when I write these words.
What I find most disturbing is how similar both sides are in their underlying arguments. If you are a conservative and watch all or mostly conservative media and fraternize with all or mostly fellow conservatives, you likely believe that all liberals are unpatriotic dolts that have been brainwashed by the mainstream media and the elite. If you are a liberal, and watch all or mostly liberal media and fraternize with all or mostly fellow liberals, you likely believe that all conservatives are fools that are uneducated, racist, xenophobic, sexist, etc. See a similarity?
Both sides see all members of the other as incompetent, or worse. Alex Jones, a popular conservative radio show host, did 5 minutes on how Hillary and Obama have flies land on them and allegedly smell of sulfur (i.e. saying they are literally possessed by demons). On the other side, Bill Maher interviewed Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, and told her that “you are enabling pure evil.” See a similarity?
Both liberalism and conservatism have become increasingly ideological, that is, both sides hold a belief that their opinion is the only valid or “right” one and that any dissent from their opinion is not just that, a difference of opinion, but a fault of morality, an unforgivable sin. If you're a liberal that believes in gay rights, you're an evil person. If you're a conservative that believes the Second Amendment should be upheld, you're a murderer. See a similarity?
We have ceased seeing each other as individuals with aspirations and problems and families and instead package each other into neat little boxes of pure, unbridled rightness or wrongness. What we all should realize is that whether you ascribe to a conservative notion of what America should look like or a liberal one, the bottom line is that both sides want to push their agendas because they believe it will make this country better, or fairer, or safer.
If you hear a viewpoint that you disagree with, let’s say the Affordable Care Act, listen to why that person holds a viewpoint that’s different from yours. After you hear them out (and I don’t just mean allow them to speak without listening), voice your reasons for why you disagree. Don’t assume that the person disagrees with you because they are stupid, uneducated, or fundamentally wrong.
If someone disagrees with you, frame your reasoning in a logical way and state it calmly. Actually try to convince them as to why you believe you hold the correct answer, but respect their opinion and realize that, in many of life's questions, there are no right answers.
We are the United States of America. We live in one of the greatest countries the world has ever known in probably the greatest time to be alive, ever. Let’s start celebrating again. Let’s start having conversations again. Let’s come together again.
Justin Barnard is a graduate student at the State University of New York at Fredonia. He is studying for a Master of Arts in English as well as a Certificate of Advanced Study in Professional Writing. Justin has been published in The Times Union, The Daily Gazette, The Journal of Critical Thinking, and recently presented research at the What is Life? Conference held at the University of Oregon at Portland. Find him on Twitter @JustinBWrites.