Liberals or Conservatives. Democrats or Republicans.
Let me pose a question: did any of these words disgust you? Did the mere thought make you want to shudder as you envisioned them? Whether you are a die-hard conservative who doesn’t believe in liberal reforms, or you are a passionate Democrat frustrated with the platform of the Republican party, or you are annoyed with the political system and support a third party, you aren’t alone. The partisan divide in this past election has become a chasm, and most people are guilty of falling in.
How does one “fall into the chasm of the bitter partisan divide? Social media certainly exacerbates it. Through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other sources, we can control which news sources we follow. However, without even recognizing it, those sources have inherent bias that reflect our own. The reason is simple: no one wants to be wrong. If media sources prove you to be right, it reassures those beliefs. Civil dialogue is prohibited from happening; people become sheltered from viewpoints that contradict their own, while their thoughts become amplified by those around them. Thus, when those partisan views come into contact, they explode into insults and accusations. People refuse to listen to the other side. And there isn’t a morally blameless side: both the Left and Right face this issue.
How should we combat this? First of all, it starts with recognition. Look at what news sources you read or follow, and try to find the bias. Coverage of issues is often skewed. Although you may personally agree, if one view is shown to be more favorable than the other, there is an evident bias. The next step is to broaden your search to find more inclusive and balanced news sources; a balance will lead to understanding.
Finally, open up the conversation. It is difficult, but it is entirely possible to have civil discussions with people who have opposite opinions. Try not to delve into insults; it isn’t beneficial for learning. Encourage the other person to explain their motives behind their thoughts as well as your own. Respect isn’t dead after this election, but it does need a revival. The divide is necessary, since different ways of thinking are important to creating a check in our political system. On the other hand, does it need to be so bitter? We have four years now with a candidate who thrived off frustrations with the status quo, and has already appointed an alt-right extremist who ran perhaps one of the most biased forms of media. The media is considered by many as the “fourth branch of government” and non-partisan coverage should not be suppressed under the new Republican leadership. However, the Left should not only post passive aggressive statuses on Facebook and instead work for positive change. The Right should not only tweet victory cries, but prepare for this new leadership and ensure that it works for all Americans.
Democratic or Republican. Liberal or Conservative. Both deserve our respect.
Written by Lauren Bayne from SETYG in St. Louis