Millennial’s Mission Possible:

Ideology in the Age of Alternative Facts

These past few years I have begun to see both college and high-school friends find their niche. While some people are interested in science, technology, or even starting their own business, this past year and a half has galvanized everyone I know into a passion for politics. As a staunch lover of government and politics, I was over the moon to see my friends become interested in something that was so important. However, I have come to regret this sentiment.

This election cycle was unprecedented for so many reasons, but I would like to shed light on one of the most troubling issues facing young people: the formation and expression of political ideology. This process has been under siege the past year, and the election was the principle force behind it.

One of my college professors that I greatly admire stated in class one day that, “the purpose of attending college is not to learn new information. It is, however, to be able to gather ideas and process them for yourself and form your own opinions.” I remember this statement word-for-word because I really took it to heart. In a world consumed by messages that are defined by 140 characters or flashy headlines, it is important to be able to process information and develop intellectual ideas and share those ideas with peers.

The past election cycle, in contrast, saw abusive rhetoric thrown around like a cartoon food fight, and there was no one to clean the mess up. While this act of throwing insults was used by both sides of the isle, Donald Trump was the kid who yelled “food fight!” It was evident at his rallies, where protesters and attendees were seen fighting or exchanging hateful slurs. Young men and women, at a monumental time of political development, were defending their candidate by using the same hateful and uninformed rhetoric he was using.

Donald Trump has set the Republican Party, and politics for that matter, back years of progress. It is already difficult for a younger, more progressive generation to engage with a party stigmatized by a history of racism, nationalism, and anti-poor attitudes, but Trump has enhanced these ideas on a national stage. Republicans will now have to challenge themselves to bring the party to be above the rhetoric and hate. But this challenge will be even harder for young people who have been unable to formulate their own policy ideas without hearing a rhetorical one-liner. I encourage young people, no matter if you are Republican or Democrat, to learn to formulate your own ideas based on facts. Not the alternative.

Many in my generation have lost the ability to apply critical thinking to information, news, and ideas, and this loss will set a dangerous precedent for many years to come. But this ability is not lost forever. I believe in my generation of people, that they can overcome the rhetoric and the hate. I just hope they are up for the challenge.