The great comedian Lewis Black once said, albeit much more profanely than I can repeat in a forum as professional as a college newspaper, that “our two party system is a bowl of excrement staring at itself in the mirror.”
It’s as apt a description I can think of, and in the wake of the November elections, hateful, strong rhetoric can be heard coming from both sides at least a little louder than usual, painting a picture of how divided as a nation we truly are.
I grew up in an intensely conservative household, and up until I was in high school, I was absolutely certain that liberals were agents of Satan. My liberal friends openly stated to me that they felt the same way about the right wing, and we would spend endless time arguing and debating with no one’s opinions ever changing and, more often than not, getting so angry we wouldn’t speak for a few days.
My politics have evolved a lot since I was in high school, and I no longer identify as Republican or Democrat or really anything. In all honesty, party politics seem ridiculous to me, and it does more harm than good.
Maybe it’s because I grew up around Republicans and befriended a lot of Democrats, but once I identified as neither, I was able to see how quickly either side is willing to slap labels on the other and call it a day. If you’ve ever seen Internet articles with titles like ’10 Things Republicans Say About X’ or ‘You Won’t Believe What This Democrat Governor Said About Y’, you’ll know what I mean.
Stupid, extreme opinions exist on both sides, because there are stupid, extreme people everywhere. One idiot’s dangerous opinion is not representative of an entire group, and it’s foolish to think otherwise. It’s the same principle as trying to say all Christians believe what the Westboro Baptist Church believes or that all Muslims support ISIS.
Our entire country has been pitted against each other: Republican versus Democrat, red versus blue, conservative versus liberal. We’ve been spoon fed this idea that our politics are black and white, when really political ideologies fall on a grey scale.
Issues are more complex than the two main voices we hear in the media, and they are polarized to a point that no real progress is ever made.
While I do have very clear cut opinions on what I think is right and wrong for our country, in most cases I can respect anyone who votes with their conscience and can critically form their own opinions on an issue. I urge you, as a voter and a citizen, to educate yourself and even look at multiple perspectives, including third party ideas. Being informed and not just voting for someone based on if they have a little R or D by their name is more important than I can ever express.
My dream is a world where people have their own political ideas and party lines no longer exist. However, I also know that this dichotic nature of politics is so ingrained into our minds that even if the parties were abolished, people would still hold dearly onto their respective party’s ideals. The best I can ever hope for is people choosing to ignore this duality and judge people based on their own beliefs and ideas rather than those of a party they subscribe to.
So before you call someone a bigot for having more conservative values, or someone else a mooching, dirty hippie for having liberal values, remember that when you make these judgments you are aiding in the ultimate divide of the American people and reducing a person’s ethical and political beliefs to a simple label.
So let me impart this final advice to everyone: always be respectable, always be understanding of the fact that living in this country grants everyone the right to believe whatever they want, and always, always remember that united we stand.