Being a human person in today's America, I find it deceptively difficult to not to think about what is going on in Washington most days, or any number of the countless state and local governments that have equal or greater impact on our lives. It is a battle of not wanting to waste my thoughts on the downward spiral of American politics these past few years, and not being able to stop thinking and talking about it, because it is simply that shocking. And in a third unpopular perspective, not wanting to give some people the spotlight they so desperately want.
But day in and day out, I find myself checking the news, no matter how depressing. It is almost like I feel better about myself for knowing the information, but worse after I learn about what is going on. A juxtaposition for the books if you ask me.
Regardless, I believe wholeheartedly that no problem is ever solved without talking about it. In fact I think that no issue is even addressed until it is talked about. Without the appropriate discourse, like a brewing feud between two friends, tensions will rise, and continue to rise until someone has the balls to say what they are thinking. Politics are no different. And just like with any argument between friends, colleagues or lovers, approaching a political disagreement with animosity and closed mindedness will never ever yield a favorable result.
So bringing it back full circle, I feel strange addressing the ongoings in Washington with anyone I know to have a different opinion, or anyone whose opinion I am unsure of. This is entirely an effort to avoid the inevitable uncomfortable confrontation or unnecessary argument. Which, in a way, is why most people avoid talking about politics. But, like any cliche would tell you, it does not have to be that way. Not all differences in opinion are destined to end in anxious disagreements.
The biggest issue, and to be completely honest the biggest proponent of the uncomfortable tensions that sit between opinions across the aisle, is misinformation, and misunderstanding. And to make it even worse, many people are unaware of the misinformation that they hold to be true. In fact, many believe that their opinion is based off of nothing other than cold hard facts. So when confronted with an opposing opinion, it turns into two brick walls shouting at one another. No one is concerned with what the other has to say, and will most likely walk away having gained nothing.
Given, it is completely obvious and accepted that Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and any other party that may exist within our 50 states have some serious differences in both actions and opinions. And from the outside, those differences might seem unbridgeable, as they are essentially the defining characteristics of American politics. But these differences are not solidified. It is easy to assume that all Republicans and all Democrats have the exact same ideology, respectively, when in fact that could not be further from the truth. Like all social groups in human society, there are things they hold in common with each other, but like all humans personalities or voices or musical tastes, each individual is unique. And our cardinal sin is to assume that there are no differences among those who subscribe to a different ideology than us. When we assume all opinions across the aisle are the same, we further the distance and add to the animosity between the groups. People assume that if you are a Democrat and you hear your neighbor is a registered Republican, than you will have nothing to talk about. That your stances exist now as they always will, and that everything your "opponent" says is working against your agenda. This ideology is not only false, but incredibly harmful. Its stops progress in its tracks. We are blinded by false assumptions.
Given any civil conversation about any number of issues across our political spectrum between two people who have opposite opinions, neither will enter the conversation with a complete understanding of the opposite side. But after respectfully, emphasis on respectfully, giving each point of view, both will walk away having learned something from the other. If each individual comes at a polarized discussion with no malicious intention, and with every intention to learn, it will not end in anger, but rather in growth and understanding. This type of discussion is not only transformative, but necessary, whether you're a liberal talking to a conservative, or a pro-choice advocate talking to a pro-life advocate, or a church goer talking to an atheist. The common thread that can link us all together is respect for one another, and the amount we have to learn from one another.
People learn most if not all of their information from within their own circle of thought, which furthers and propagates their already existing stereotypes and perceptions of the other side. What we need in America is diversification of thought. We may be the most diverse country in the world, but we live ideological bubbles in part due to social media, in part due to social circles, and in part due to where we choose to live, or live by default due to socioeconomic circumstances. Many of us only associate with, and as a result only respect and listen to, people who already agree with us. We need to pop these bubbles, and without any aggressive intentions, need to try to bridge the gap and understand thy neighbor. Keeping in mind that there are exceptions to every rule, many Americans hold similar ideals when it comes to core values, and the value of respecting your fellow citizen. And if you break down the walls that politics tries to build between us, you might understand and appreciate opinions you have always just written off, because they seemed different than yours.
I am not saying this with any particular political party in mind. It is my belief that ignorance exists on both sides of the spectrum. I am completely in favor of difference of opinion, I am just not in favor of alienating someone, or some group entirely because you believe their opinion is different than yours. Disagreeing is okay, if fact it is encouraged. I only ask that you disagree to each other's face, then talk about it, learn from each other. Leave every discussion with new knowledge.
Bringing up politics is taboo, but it shouldn't be. What should be taboo is talking about people you do not understand to people who do not understand them either. I am not trying to discredit anyone's opinion; in fact it is quite the opposite. I believe everyone has a right to an opinion, and that we should work much much harder to try and understand one another's.