A House Divided

JULIA WOODS

Almost every Presidential election season is comprised of candidates seeking office who claim to be the best “leader” to “unite” the citizens of our country. However I cannot envision a time of year more divisive among families, friends, and even students. As election day is quickly approaching, it seems with every mention of politics, a full-blown argument inevitably follows. Citizens everywhere are swept up in their own political mindsets, which has the power to overtake all their thoughts and actions.

This year’s election focuses on the two most unlikeable candidates since favorability statistics came into existence. The polarizing effect of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has proven to be incredibly powerful, however what’s truly been exposed is the art of perception. Prior to the time of election, it’s much less common to question the political opinions of your friends, family, and peers. Now, political conversation has essentially become a part of our daily routine. Every person has their respective beliefs and ideas that are a result of many factors. Every citizen is raised in different environments with different mindsets, lifestyles, religious affiliations and economic conditions. The root of this division is the assumption that people who don’t concur with your ideas are simply incorrect.

confettiOur values and beliefs are undeniably worth defending, but there is a fine line in which this defense can have a reverse effect. Expressing your views should be intended to stimulate discussion and open yourself up to a different perspective. Instead, this conversation is driving people to distance themselves from people whose beliefs don’t coincide with their own. It is basic human nature to be irritated when someone tells you you’re wrong, particularly when it comes to something that is personally important to you, and respecting beliefs of others can be challenging, especially for the people who are typically surrounded by those that agree with them. Due to these factors it becomes effortless to isolate others who disagree. They become the “other” belief to you. They become the “wrong” belief to you.

This highlights the major issue with political parties; it rationalizes the idea of disconnecting from one another. But no political issue is straightforward, as some may seem to believe them to be. People attempting to turn gray areas into black and white is a leading cause of division in our country. Many partisans are convinced that members of the other party are  purposefully harming the nation. This recent polarization has taken on an unprecedented personal element. Democrats and Republicans have always not gotten along. But today the feelings appear far more hostile. For example, thirty-six percent of Republicans say the Democratic Party is a threat to the well-being of the country, while just over a quarter of Democrats see the GOP as a threat to the nation.  Political differences are a factor in any country, and an important element of democracy. But as partisanship increases, the ability to form a compromise and make decisions is weakened. It is extremely important to understand is that the primary reason for political discourse is because we believe that our ideas would make life better for the people of our country.

Maintaining an open mindset is challenging for myself and I assume many others. Despite the outcome of this election, this election has made our country and the world uglier. With the election just days away, what I’ve learned is that having a sense of understanding is the only truly practical approach for learning about those that are different from you.  “We the people” is how one of our most important documents starts, perhaps if we could remember those words, and that we are in fact all people, -not the “other” or the “enemy” and that there is more that unites us than divides us; maybe than we can begin to move forward.

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