Polarization

Politics: a four letter word. I tend to avoid this topic publicly, though I go through lengths to inform myself daily from all sides of the spectrum. I understand that some people want to fervently share their own beliefs in hopes of feeling understood by others or persuading some, and I commend that; it takes bravery to put your honest opinions into the world in this political climate when you know you are opening yourself up to crossfire.

I’m not here to be brave today. In fact, if I write this blog the way I  intend, you won’t have any grasp on what I believe one way or the other. I am personally very politically private. I can count on one hand how many souls in this world truly know my philosophies. I will tell you, however, that I dislike labels. And this is why –

I find politics to be especially polarizing. I know, to a degree, it always has been, but I feel we are at the peak of Everest right now. Each day, I see so much hate espoused from all political parties, whether I’m reading articles, watching (any) news network, or just perusing Facebook. People toss pejoratives back and forth at one another like they are playing hot potato. Words are assigned to whole groups of people, labels that are twisted, villainized, a wildfire of propaganda from both sides that meets in the middle, creating an inferno of insolence, with no minds melding, ears opening, arms embracing – no truth. Somewhere in the midst of it all, diplomacy dies.

Recently, I read something that spoke to my world view. This wasn’t anyone famous. I don’t even know who it was, frankly – some stranger on social media whose lens is similar to my own. He said something along the lines of this – “I fear we are so polarized that we have forgotten the enlightenment age and regressed to some tribal mentality.” That is my perception as well, that the idea of not being partisan shakes many people to their core; it is their identity, their like-minded tribe, and the other side is the warring tribe, come to steal away their lands. People forget we are all humans, Americans. We may all have our own values, but, at the end of the day, wouldn’t it be better to put aside the emotions to find common ground to stand on? We’re taught as small children how to share with our neighbor, but as adults we fight over our beliefs like toys, unwilling to share nuggets of knowledge with one another to better understand each other’s perspectives when it challenges our own in any way.

I may not talk about my own beliefs often, but I love listening. I will listen to your beliefs all day with an open heart and mind. It doesn’t mean I’ll adopt them, but I might – whole or part. You may provide me a perspective I had not considered yet, creating empathy and understanding; it happens often. I don’t shun any opinion because it broadens my depth of knowledge.

These past few years have been rough, unprecedented, and foul. I felt like the entirety of the election leading to the climactic results paralleled a football season, angry fans sporting their colors and hats, painting their faces to yell obscenities from the stands as the players met on the field to imbue a sense of tribal togetherness. When all was said and done, some faced an extreme upset while others celebrated a victory.

I don’t think anyone in this country is truly victorious right now, when we are all so separate, hurting, angry, polarized. We need to remember that we have evolved, are enlightened, are not enemies. We have access to endless information on each others’ perspectives and, more importantly, we have each other.

People like to constantly remind everyone of the tenets of our founding fathers. Thomas Jefferson told William Hamilton, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” 

We need to stop shunning friends with other ideologies and, instead, listen to one another. I may not adapt to the same belief system, but I can respect why you feel that way. We don’t have to agree with or adopt others’ world view, but we should listen and try to understand where others are coming from for the simple goal of humanizing one another, rather than villainizing.

 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jon says:

    I respect your sentiment here, and I think there is some dangerous polarization in politics today–which is not limited to the United States. I see similar clashes in Canada, UK, and even Europe.

    However, I think there is a dangerous thread in your line of thought to suppose that we are all just humans and we have to respect the other side–as if we have to ascribe to a side. I think politics are more complicated than “sides.” Conservative, Liberals, Right-wingers, and Left-wingers, to me, are brands that often are empty of any tangible ideology in the stage of contemporary politics. I am thinking this through the recent work of a political scientist Nandita Biswas Mellamphy.

    For example, I would probably identify as a “leftie” in most spheres, but that doesn’t mean I exclude myself from certain conservative views. Also, and I have especially noticed this in Canadian politics, what was once “conservative” is now a “liberal” agenda and vice-versa. I think this obsession with branding has lead to a sort of “anti-politics” where the “other side” expounds the opposite view no matter what their party values are.

    But I want to be even more critical of you here. It is nice to say we are all human, we are all Americans, et cetera. The problem with this statement is not everyone in the United States, Canada, and the rest of the world is treated as human. We can talk about being open to the other side and listening to alternative viewpoints, but I personally draw the line at viewpoints that would lead to harm to my fellow humans. From your perspective, we tread on an ignorance towards the tens of thousands of human deaths inside and outside our borders because of deranged, malignant foreign and domestic policies. This is why I chose to remain polarized.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with your line of thinking that politics runs on a spectrum. I’ll have to look into Nandita Biswas Mellamphy, myself.

      I also agree with your last point. I did consider approaching this subject in my blog as well, and maybe I should amend it. At a certain point, if an ideology is harmful to others, it shouldn’t be accepted. However, I think sometimes people refuse to engage in forums of discussion where empathy could be established and, instead, point a shameful finger at people who believe (insert harmful opinion here) as opposed to hearing them out and understanding where that harmful ideology stems from. This creates tension and causes one to be defensive, reinforcing the divisiveness of the situation. It’s okay to tell someone “I’ve heard where your belief comes from, and I still don’t agree. This is why.” I’m not naive enough to think this is fool proof or wouldn’t still cause an emotional response, but, sometimes, it could allow for someone to perhaps be open to hearing a new perspective. I think people like to be heard, and we should be willing to listen, though not be accepting of ones belief to a fault. In sum: be respectful of people and show decorum in conversation rather than respecting their right to whatever opinion they hold.

      Like

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