It is 2018; Donald Trump is president, Snoop Dog has his own Netflix show and women are wearing pink pussyhats during marches.
All debatable subjects at this point in history, but none of them are as prominent as the extreme political divide that the United States is facing.
As much as I wish I could say I am the person with THE solution that will bring the left and the right to the middle, I regretfully am not. It’s not that I don’t have an idea, it’s that I’m just one person with a keyboard, and in order to stop political polarization in the U.S., it’s going to take a majority of its 300 million citizens with a will to change.
More importantly, however, it’s going to take a majority of those 300 million citizens to first understand that the political divide is in fact a major problem in our society that will eventually lead to more than social media outbursts and biased-media.
Instead of turning a cold-shoulder towards each other’s political parties and only having conversations with those we know will agree with us on foreign policy or inequality, U.S. citizens need to recognize and respect the values of each other’s parties.
Sounds simple, right? No, because if people and politicians were willing to see through each other’s political lenses and work out a solution without stomping their feet on the ground like children, we would not see the political divide we do today.
I must admit this idea did not come to me on the way to work or while I was watching Snoop Dog on Netflix. It came from Robb Willer, a professor of sociology, psychology and organizational behavior at Stanford University.
In my search to find the truth behind the political divide, I stumbled upon Willer’s TED Talk where he said that one of the explanations to the U.S.’s political polarization is that we are not necessarily divided politically, but morally. I couldn’t agree more. I witness how being a liberal or conservative is no longer what you mark on a ballet, but can very well be how society defines who you are as a person.
Willer went on to explain that liberals and conservatives tend to hold onto specific values. For example, Willer said that liberals typically value equality, fairness, care and protection while conservatives typically value loyalty, patriotism, respect for authority and moral purity.
When talking to someone with different political views, Willer said people tend to talk to a mirror instead of considering the other person’s values.
“We don’t persuade, so much as we rehearse our own reasons for why we believe some sort of political position,” Willer said.
To fix this, Willer said he believes in the concept of moral reframing. This concept, developed from studies of liberals and conservatives, says that people with opposing opinions are more likely to be persuaded if you tie their values into the conversation.
In other words, consider the other person values instead of only preaching your own. That’s how progress is made.
Realizing that morals have become an integral part of politics explains why people are so passionate and hard-headed. It is their very beliefs that are being debated on Capitol Hill, and naturally we gravitate towards those who possess the same values as we do and oppose those who don’t.
However, I want to remind everyone that by definition a value is a person’s principles or standards of behavior, one’s judgment of what is important in life. A moral is concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.
A person’s value is neither right nor wrong, it is simply what one defines as important in life, and as a U.S. citizen, the government cannot tell us what to value. But when it comes down to the morality of certain legislation or political decisions, there is right and there is wrong.
I believe moral reframing is the first step towards bridging the political divided. Bring back respect and empathy for those who have different beliefs to find a common ground.
But as of right now, politically, people are more willing to stand and fight for their values no matter if political position is morally right or wrong.
We as a society need to remember that we are all part of this political divide, not just those in Washington. As a matter of fact, we are the majority and instead of complaining about the government let’s set the example.
Let us a be a nation of citizens that decides based on morality instead of what it hears from CNN or Fox News.
I have heard from grumbling elders and annoyed adults that my generation is morally corrupt and extremely selfish, but yet I see grey-haired men and women in Congress exhibiting the same behavior.
That is why I said it going to take ALL of the U.S.’s 300 million citizens with a will to change. Everyone knows that we need to change the political divide, but no one wants be the change. And that is where I think my generation is going to be the game changer.
Clara Nevins, activist, social entrepreneur and writer, wrote the article It’s Up To Young People To Bridge The Political Divide. She, along with other youth, founded the nonpartisan political organization called Bridge the Divide.
This organization encourages students to get involved in respectful and meaningful political debate. According to Nevins, Bridge the Divide has over a thousand users and contributors with leadership in 10 different countries.
“However, we realized that understanding and tolerance can lead to a productive conversation, and that was exactly what our culture was failing to do,” Nevins wrote. “Why is this so? We see it in our parents. We see it in our media. We see it in our leaders. Quite simply, this intolerance is ingrained in society and our heads from day one.”
John Dickinson in 1768 wrote, “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!” as part of a pre-revolutionary war song.
Politically and morally divided the U.S. will inevitably fall. The divide is more than simply disagreeing, it is turning people against each other. Please don’t let history repeat itself and find the will to become an empathetic human on all terms, not just politics, but for the sake of our great nation.