The Divided America: Showcased by the 2016 Presidential election
I think we can all agree that the 2016 presidential election was a wild ride. The election showed two very different Americas at odds with each other in a very unruly and demonizing way. While the two party system existed before the 2016 election, the intensely emotional and controversial nature of this election, as well as the moral failings Donald Trump, have caused many partisan prejudices to fester into deeply rooted hatred. The Great American Debate has become both popularized and polarized by the two party system; often, people are more concerned with furthering the interests of their party than furthering the interests of America. The polarization of our discourse and arguement has become so engrained into the composition of who we are as a people that in many ways we have forgotten that we are all one nation. The following TED interview discusses what I’m talking about rather eloquently.
“The idea that the world is a battle between good and evil as this has been ramping up, we’re more likely not just to say they’re wrong or I don’t like them, but we say they’re evil, they’re satanic, they’re disgusting, they’re revolting. And then we want nothing to do with them.” -Jonathan Haidt
Clearly this election has our nation very divided. People are often more concerned with promoting the success of their prefered political party than the success of the nation itself. This is a human tendancy which Haidt talks about. Another thing to consider about this election and the partisan nature of our politics is the physical geography of our nation. More and more people are begining to align their political beleifs with that of their communities, rather than think individualisticly. But, how does this apply to us?
It’s almost like Liberals and conservatives live in different Universes.
For me, personally, I experienced this election in two distinct ways. The first was during my senior year of high school at a very conservative private school in California. Yes, you did read that right, there are sharply conservative areas in the great state of California. The second was at St. John’s University a rather liberal campus in Queens, New York. These were obviously two very different experiences. While I think there is still much that I don’t understand about both sides, and even more I don’t understand about the greater truths of the issues facing America, I have noticed a few things on both sides. One is that both sides refer to and think of the other side in terms of their party. People tend to shape their entire view of who a person is by the party they stand by. Liberals end up being viewed as whiney and pretentious, whereas conservatives are viewed as unintelligent and prejudiced. Ultimately, We turn our animosity to conservative or liberal people, instead of conservative or liberal platforms. This is a very dangerous thing as a political party is so much less than a person’s full identiy. It’s okay to disagree with some of the things a party says, but if you allow that to shape your view of the identity of another human being, that is counter-productive to the well-being of America as a whole. For instance, I know Democrats who are Pro-Life, and Republicans who support Same-Sex Marriage. Ultimately I see a lot of people who are allowing their opinons of American Policy effecet their opinions of American People. And that is my greatest take away from all this. To not think less of people, or treat them with less basic human respect for people who think or vote differently than me. I have friends who voted for Trump, Hillary, and even Jill Stein, and I refuse to stop being friends with any of them. I am determined to uphold the idea of a dialogue between ideas because no one is always right or always wrong. Even if people are deeply ignorant on certain topics, I still strive to treat them with the same, dignified, human respect. Above all, I don’t give up on people.
“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
Ultimately, what I think it comes down to is a culture clash. It is clear that Liberals and conservatives ascribe to very different cultures and beleifs. It’s almost like Liberals and conservatives live in different Universes. People typically vote in congruence with their geographic communities, and nowadays our communities tend to only be Republican or only be Democrat. This is why there are now states that are percieved as sharply “red” or sharply “blue.” This further brings home the idea of thinking of the other party as foreigners. This discrepancy even translates to the world of the internet. Everyone exists in their own bubbled internet communities which become just as divided and closed off as our geography. Ultimately, when you look at what people believe politically, you have to look at who they are and what their community is like.
It goes back to empathy, if you are empathetic to who a person is and where they come from, you can still disagree with them, but you can’t really hate them or be disgusted by them. Don’t get me wrong, righteous anger in the face of ideas that are fundamentally against one’s composition is a valuable and important thing when debating one’s side; however, there is an important and nuanced difference between hating an idea or mindset, than hating a person or people. And that’s where I think a lot of people get off; they operate under the assumption that in order to disagree with something and oppose an idea there needs to be this heated battle fueled by hatred of the people supporting ideas. This heated battle is unneccesary, far more productive is the peaceful discussion of liberal and conservative ideas, and maybe even the collaborative creation of some new ideas that fix the issues and satisfy everyone. I believe it is from this respectful disagreement that steps in the right direction can be made. This idea applies to any nation with a polarized political discourse.
“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.” -Henry Ford
In the end, we’re all Americans, and we all want the same thing. We all want to see America prosper, we all want to feel safe in our own nation, and we all want to create a better world for our children. We need the help of both Republicans and Democrats to bring about that dream. Both can bring about American prosperity in different ways, and both are required to improve America for future generations. We’re all a little lost right now, but ultimately America was made for all of us and it will take all of us to make it a truly spectacular nation!