This opinion piece is catered to the American millennial of today. We owe it to the future success of this country to seek the end of the current political divide this country faces.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Those were the words uttered by President Abraham Lincoln in 1858. Today, America is a house divided, by a wall. Not a wall President Trump is proposing, but a metaphorical wall, dividing liberals and conservatives across this nation across all age groups. Even today, centrists who used to watch from high atop have been pulled down from their perch to either pick a side or be mocked for it.
You see it all over social media such as Twitter or Reddit. Political jabs are rude remarks thrown everywhere. According to Google Trends, words like “libtard” have rarely been used before until after the 2016 presidential election.
Other keywords like “bigot,” “snowflake” and “feminazi” have appeared in increasing numbers, not just online but in real life as well.
I stood in front of Black Hall on April 5 as one Patriot Prayer member was accused by a particularly rowdy student of being a “child molester.” Later that night, Haley Adams, another Patriot Prayer member, constantly accused counter protestors of being Communists and Nazis. Constant shouting of insults, derogatory terms and other examples of political jargon filled the Ellensburg air the weekend of April 5. It saddened me deeply. Where have the days of bipartisanship gone? Why can’t we respect each other as fellow human beings rather than attack each other for our personal political beliefs?
Our country’s growing distrust between its citizens, based partially on politics, has led to many individuals getting hurt or worse, killed. According to NBC News, In Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, an individual whom a former teacher labeled as a white supremacist, ran over a counter protester with his car at a Unite the Right rally, killing her. According to TIME Magazine, in Berkeley, California that same year, Antifa, or anti-fascist, left-wing protestors assaulted police officers and other non-violent right-wing marchers. According to a PEW Research Poll in 2017, “the gaps on several sets of political values in particular, including measures of attitudes about the social safety net, race and immigration, have increased dramatically.”
It’s unclear who is to blame for the growing violence and political discourse over the past several years. Democrats often point to the election of President Donald Trump. Republicans point back to President Barack Obama. It’s a constant game of finger pointing, frantic shouting and even long-lasting friendships being broken.
I’ve grown up as someone who’s seen the perspectives of both sides. My parents both share very liberal views as do my immediate siblings. We were raised in the greater Seattle area. However, my grandparents and extended family live in Plano, Texas and are all proud Republicans. I consider myself a proud independent; someone who shares perspectives on both ends of the political spectrum. I’ve seen firsthand the tension between family members with different political views at the dinner table.
What never works in any form of conflict is arguing or sincere disagreement. In an article for VeryWellMind.com, Elizabeth Scott, M.S., explains that techniques like being defensive, stonewalling, playing the blame game or even trying to “win” the argument does not resolve conflict. When met with a conflict over something trivial like politics, liberals and conservatives need to find some sort of common ground, even if it means making personal sacrifices.
While I believe in the concept of safe spaces as a form of eliminating all forms of discrimination, I do not believe all censorship of different political views should be tolerated. Just because someone does not believe in the rights for same-sex couples to get married does not make them a bigot or a homophobe. Just because someone says Black Lives Matter does not make them a racist against white people, or someone who hates the police. Censoring these views seeks to divide, rather than attempt to create a mutual understanding. Rather than dismiss different views, ask an opposing minded individual why they believe in what they believe in. Try to find compromise in your differing views.
While it may seem daunting, or even challenging to set aside your personal views, seeking to find common ground on issues like politics serves us better as a whole. In the Frontier Tavern last Saturday night, I sat down with many Patriot Prayer members and asked numerous questions about their livelihood. At the end, we toasted glasses and laughed about the events from the whole night. I do not agree with the beliefs of Patriot Prayer. I do not sympathize with their views in any form whatsoever.
But when you seek compassion in those whom you may feel lacks the most of it, you often find common ground and perhaps even become closer than you might have even imagined. I love my family deeply and I have not once ever shamed a family member for their differing political views. I urge my fellow millennials to be the generation that seeks an end to political-based discrimination and hope to see a day where bi-partisanship exists in our Congress again. Maybe even a day where vicious name-calling becomes a combined toast to friendship and health.