It’s Time to Take a Deeper Look at Our Fellow Americans
As the divide between Americans continues to grow with no end in sight, I find myself in constant conversations with friends, both conservative and liberal from across the country, trying to get a better understanding of not only what they are experiencing and feeling as a result of current issues, but also to see what conversations are and aren’t being had where they live. As a result, issues that I have noticed have been reinforced by these conversations.
First, a large majority of Americans see and want to fix the divide in the country but only see the means of doing so through what they believe. To them, their ideology is the answer and it is as simple as that.
Secondly, I have noticed that more people are caught up in “the issues” as it affects them and they don’t stop to think how it affects other people.
Lastly, Americans in general, but especially the youth, have lost the understanding of what it truly means to be a conservative or liberal and therefore only think of and view their fellow Americans through the lens of current issues and the stance they take rather than looking at the heart of the person and the ideas behind why they take the stances that they do.
While there are many other things that I have noticed, I believe that if we start to change the things that I have just mentioned, then a lot of the other things will work themselves out. I understand the work that is needed between saying things need to change and that change actually happening. For the first issue that I noticed, changing that type of thought is actually quite simple but will just naturally take some time. This change can be helped by knowing that one ideology is not better or worse than the other.
Both conservatism and liberalism have their pros and cons which more often than not actually balance each other out. By recognizing that both are needed to solve our country’s issues, the idea of one being better than the other will slowly die. Unless this happens, the result will be a continuation of what we are experiencing now: just more people trying to discredit the ideology of others when in fact, there is so much potential for conservatism and liberalism to improve upon each other. Now, for the other issues that I mentioned, the solutions aren’t quite as simple. Really, they are related and therefore I think both issues could have the same solution. I believe that both are a result of first social media and misrepresentation by national news media: a misrepresentation of political ideologies and often skewing the lines between fact and fiction when it comes to past and current issues. They are also a result of the sad fact that not all politicians run for office with the intent of representing the people. Due to both of these things, issues are often politicized and I believe they are done so on purpose but that is for another discussion.
So what is the solution for these last two issues? Well, it is exactly what the title suggests. We have to start taking a deeper look at our fellow Americans. When we see that someone is a conservative or a liberal, that is often the only thing we look at. Also, we almost immediately make an opinion on what they have to say before they’ve said it. Again, this is because of the politicization of current issues which we’ve also allowed to define for us what it means to be a conservative or liberal. When issues start defining groups of people, we start to view people as just that: as beings only as part of a group and not as an individual. When your first inclination is to overlook a person’s individualism, then not only do you naturally lose the ability to understand that person and what they believe but you also become incapable of seeing how an issue affects people other than yourself. This is poisonous to society and it is precisely what has been and is happening right now. This has resulted in what I said earlier. We are often caught up in “the issues”, so to speak, as they pertain to ourselves and, because of this, current issues are pitting groups of people against each other, furthering the divide we now face. While there is much that needs to be done to fix this, one thing that we can all do is stop looking at conservatism and liberalism in the context of an issue, and start doing so in the context of the individual or individuals with whom we interact with because, at a person’s core, they believe what they believe based on life experience and that is different from liberal to liberal and conservative to conservative. Otherwise, we will be doing what we are doing now, trying to debate issues. However, even this is problematic because you can’t debate issues you can only debate ideas. When you try to debate issues, there is actually no debate. You just get what we have now, a group vs. group conflict where one group states the problem they have with an issue with and the other group does the same. In this situation, nothing is learned and nothing gets changed. Solutions come the moment you focus on the ideas.
What I have just explained, partially covers my last two issues but there is still the matter of America’s younger generations and their lack of understanding of both true conservatism and liberalism. While what I have said thus far can help with this, some education is also required. There is too much “noise” coming from the media, politicians, and so called scholars of political thought and their influence has made our youth less tolerant, more tribalistic and dare I say, perhaps, even less informed. This has led to, for many, the inability to healthily disagree with others solely based on ideology. This is a shame because it is healthy disagreement that is the enabler of positive change and improvement.
In order to fix this, we have to reteach our youth what it means truly to be a conservative and liberal and we must rethink how to do so. See, I believe that, for many youth, not only do they not understand the ideology of people they disagree with but may not even fully understand their own. History shows us that conservatism and liberalism have been slowly and constantly changing. Yes, while key principles have stayed the same, the actions taken as a result of those principles have not. Because of this, it would be foolish to try to understand or assume you understand a person’s beliefs or ideas based on the trend of an ideology from 50 years ago. You have to have conversations with each other to understand how the ideology, and the mindset of those who hold it, has truly evolved to current time. Likewise, you can’t do the same thing by relating principles to issues. Note this is different from what I mentioned earlier which regarded issues affecting what we think about and how we view people.
Now, I’m talking about how we have learned about ours and others ideologies through issues. For most people, whether it is at home or at school, they may discuss the core principles of a political ideology, but the majority of what they learn is focused on the ideology as it relates to issues rather than focusing on the principles at their core value. This is the main thing that needs to change, otherwise the extremes of the right and the left will continue to overshadow the majority of Americans. This needs to change because the tensions in America will start to subside once we start having conversations with the perspective of principles in mind rather than the perspective of what we think we know about a certain stance on a matter because principles give us a better look at and understanding of an individual or a group more than a stance ever could.
This is why it is important that we reteach our youth. They are the future and a youth with no understanding cannot bring forth a prosperous future. We must also lead by example and look at our fellow Americans differently by focusing on their individualism, by not letting issues distract us from the possibility that a person’s life experience and beliefs might just be something of value to ourselves and society, and by recognizing your own ideology may not always present the answers to this country’s problems or at least not as simply as you may view it. And who knows, you may look so deeply that you end up learning something about yourself as well.
Written by Tyler Sanders