7 Thoughts I'm Having As Election Day Approaches

7 Thoughts I'm Having As Election Day Approaches

Just seeing those huge blocks of text in the comments section hurts my head.

Now that the 2016 presidential election—Doomsday, as I’ve even heard some refer to it—is only a few days away, talk of the election in any form is impossible to escape. Memes, videos and viral posts are scattered throughout my Facebook feed. I hear it being discussed among groups of friends in my classes and in my dining hall. As much as I want to shut it all down and block it out, I realize that I, too, am part of this new generation of voters counted on to initiate positive change in our country. Unfortunately, though, every time I make an effort to watch one of those videos, read one of those posts or listen to one of those conversations, my head feels as if it wants to explode. Along with the frustration that I really do not believe there is any way for me to help initiate positive change with the options given, these thoughts keep flooding my mind:

1. I don’t even completely understand all of the intricate ins and outs of American politics.

I am going to be perfectly honest here. There have been several times when I’ve had to look up definitions of certain terms I’ve heard or ask my friends to clarify the meanings of things, and I know that should not be the case. Or at least, I feel like that should not be the case. I feel very ashamed of that. It has not made this election season any easier for me—not easier to hear about, and not easier to make a decision about. The information I’ve got to work from about the candidates has come from the same sources it has for everyone my age—debates, Internet articles and social media—and for some reason I feel like that’s not enough, because I haven’t been able to shake this feeling that all of my peers have a broader knowledge base than I do. Particularly the ones who discuss their beliefs openly, frequently, loudly and confidently. Like, how?? I want that.

2. I can’t believe this is the first presidential election I can vote in.

The election that will directly impact my generation is the election that has been repeatedly referred to as a complete joke, the one with candidates deemed “orange crayon” and “crooked Hillary.” Fantastic. Just fantastic.

3. I kinda want to delete my Facebook account.

Political conversations among the millennial generation this fall have played out largely through social media. When I’m not seeing memes about Trump’s pumpkin-colored skin, I see articles shared by my friends who are apparently always armed and ready for a full-blown comment war, because that’s what always happens. Just seeing those huge blocks of text in the comments section hurts my head.

4. How guilty would I actually feel about wasting my vote by writing in “No One”?

This joke has been circulating for months, but I’m actually starting to seriously consider it.

5. This. Is. So. Stressful.

My body activates the flight response every time the election is mentioned because it legitimately stresses me out. Trying to think about what I’m going to do on November 8th feels worse than trying to remember what homework I have to do over the weekend.

6. Which European country could I move to if need be?

I’ve heard many of them will be more than welcoming to fleeing Americans.

7. Hibernation is sounding pretty good right about now.

Wake me up when November ends.

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American Political Tribes

Partisanship vs. tribalism

If you told me your view on gun control I am willing to bet that I can guess your political views on immigration, the environment, and abortions.

This is not because I have some type of superhuman ability or super intelligence. It is because you are probably not any different from the family you grew up in and definitely not different from the friends you hang around. I can probably predict the political views of your too, at least until college.

That is because most people hang around others that are similar to themselves. Humans enjoy hanging out with people that complement themselves. Life is more predictable and in turn safer when everyone around you is like you. You enjoy being around people that value what you believe in. You enjoy being around people that see the world the way you see it. You enjoy being in a tribe.

Humans are tribal species. That is no fault of humans for being tribal; the feeling of being safe and secured is instinctual. Natural Selections teaches why humans are tribal. The lone wolf or the human that left the pack dies and does not reproduce, while those who are tribal and stay with the pack reproduces more tribal children. Subconsciously, people pick who they feel safe around or the “Us” and who they do not feel safe around or the “Other”. Look no further than schoolchildren. Young children in school do not comprehend the concept of factions yet they naturally split the grade into smaller groups that they fill safer in.

If young children naturally split into groups then logically adults that control society would split into political groups. People group around others that share common ideologies about how the world should work. Factions are not inherently negative. Society needs some type of concurrence to defend against anarchy but complete societal agreement does not lead to progression and innovation. A problem does arise when group polarization becomes too extreme that rationality and logic are disregarded for tribal unison.

When facts start being overlooked to further a political group, it transforms from a political group to a political tribe. In tribes, members overlooked facts to stay in the tribe because staying the tribe meant life or death. Of course, calling your political party’s bad ideology into question is not life or death but it may risk political and social isolation.

This goes back to the original bet at the top of the article, most people in the same party shares similar, may be identical, outlook on different political issues. Even issues that have zero correlation with the others. Assimilating is a lot easier and more natural than defecting on current issues. Additionally, everyone in the person’s environment seems to have the same view, so it gives the impression that the group must be right on all issues.

The gun and abortion political issues are proof that ideological views matter more in the tribe's belief than the rational truth. Most people who support personal liberties in pro-choice for abortions, support governmental interference with gun regulation. Most people that believe the government creating strict gun laws is an infringement on their personal liberties, supports the government deciding what a woman can or cannot do with her own body. Logically, a person wants either group rules or personal liberties because that is his or her ideological beliefs. However, that is not the case.

Most people do not think logically when it comes to groups. Most people think in term of social norms. Social norms are not solely a conservative thing in American politics. How many liberals are pro-life or against gun control? Social norms are a human thing but as an intellectual society we must break out of these instinctual norms, not encourage them

However, society plays right into group polarization. Partisanship should be like cheering for a favorite sports team. When a sports team loses the fans will not blame the opposing team for winning. Fans criticize their team and call for accountability, change, and better results next time. If not the fans calls for the players and coaches to be replaced. That is not what happens in American politics though. American politics is more similar to a tribe. The tribe’s malfunctions are never the tribe’s fault, everything outside of the tribe is to be blamed.

That is American politics in the nutshell. Politics is seen as a war zone between two enemies. Both American tribes put Americans against each other by playing identity politics that highlights differences instead of similarity. CNN treats politics like calling a boxing match, instead of being a pioneer for pogress. Fox News actively instigates the fight theme with lies and manipulative speech American political tribes practice the “Us” vs “Others” in full. Instead of blaming our preferred party for falling short of expectation, we are told to blame: fake news, immigrants, Muslims, Mexican, “racist” and Trump. Trump truthfully earns most of the blame he receives.

Thankfully, enough citizens practice individualism that they will call the plank in their party’s eye before calling out the dust in the other party’s eye. America we must vigilantly fight against the turn to tribalism. Facts matter more than beliefs. Truth matters more than narrative. Being American matters more than being a Democrat or a Republican.

If you enjoyed this article follow me on Twitter: @JMcCrayJones

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Stop Talking About The Shooter And Focus On The Survivors

Be resilient. Be informed. Be brave.

On February 14th, 2018, we lost a total of 17 lives in yet another mass shooting. But we all know this by now and we all feel deeply sorry for each and every single family who's lost a loved one. We send positive vibes, prayers, and we might even make some sort of monetary contribution.

This is all great, and I'm glad we are not completely desensitized as a society. It is clear that we are grieving as a whole. Yet, why do we keep talking about the shooter? Nikolas Cruz shouldn't be relevant anymore. Think about it, we know he had mental health issues, we know he came from a rough upbringing, and we know that he probably didn't have much of a support system. Perhaps we could've seen this coming? But how is this different than any other dysfunctional human being who takes other people's lives?

Are we curious as to why exactly the shooter did what he did? Maybe, but there are other things that are of much more concern than the motives behind his actions. Let's stop questioning why he did it. Let's stop focusing on how rough of a life he had. Let's stop talking about him for once and for all. Why don't we talk about a little bit more about Emma Gonzalez and the other survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School? Why don't we talk about how these young students who are trying to make a difference so no other individual has to go through what they went through.

Our generation might be all the things people want to call it, but if there's one thing we are not is silent. We write, we chant, we make art, and we advocate for what we are passionate about. Do we do it differently than previous generations? Yes, we do! We mobilize people through social media and we make our voices heard in a different way, but that doesn't make our process any less valid.

Emma Gonzalez has become one of the faces and advocates for gun control laws in our country and while she acknowledges that mental health is an issue, we also have other issues to address.

"We know that they are claiming mental health issues, and I am not a psychologist, but we need to pay attention to the fact that this was not just a mental health issue. He would not have harmed that many students with a knife."

The only way tragedies like this one won't happen again is if we remember to advocate long-after the media stops talking about the shooting. Movements like the one the students are advocating such as March For Our Lives can be promising, but we need to be resilient and persistent when it comes to remembering that we are fighting not to bring back the ones we lost, but to prevent this from happening again.

This is why we are not only having vigils for all the students who lost their lives, but the survivors are actively participating in causing a change. A change in the way we vote, in the way we think, and in the way we approach issues in our country.

Be resilient. Be informed. Be brave.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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