In my home state of Texas, many of my readers surely participated in the Super Tuesday elections casting their votes for hopeful presidential, state and local candidates. While it should be a time to rejoice in the spirit of free and fair elections, the participation in a functioning democracy is often overshadowed by the negative, hyperbolic and extreme nature of our political climate.
In America, we’ve always had a divided political two-party system. But this modern age of fervor is the most polarizing, perhaps, in our history since the Civil War. This wave of polarization not only further divides our two strongest political party constituencies, it also greatly affects other aspects in our lives.
When we become polarized in political discussions, it has consequences for our society in terms of socialization, education and our work/industries. As three scholars recently observed in the article “What is the True Cost of Polarization in America?,” polarization is significant and gravitational force in our culture.
According to the writers, “polarization is not the same as disagreement about how to solve public policy problems, which is healthy and natural in a democracy. Polarization is about more than just having a different opinion than your neighbor about certain issues. Polarization occurs when we refuse to live next to a neighbor who doesn’t share our politics, or when we won’t send our children to a racially integrated school.”
Voters of each party are becoming more divergent not just in their views about politics but in their views about a multitude of different issues. The phenomenon is so great, that Pew Research Center experts recently discovered that Republicans and Democrats have “different preferences about their ideal communities and [even] house sizes…the ideological differences in community preferences are stark…”
I can’t help but feel that this divide stems from an inability, or outright refusal, to listen to each other’s viewpoints respectfully. Have you heard of cancel culture? It’s when one person “cancels” another because of their behavior or ideologies, refusing to engage with that individual on any level. While this may be well warranted in cases of casting away the fame of celebrity sexual abusers, misogynists or other far-out people, “cancel culture” surely shouldn’t give someone the right to “tune someone out” just because of their political preferences.
That’s why I harken back to a theme I wrote in a previous blog a couple of years ago, “why can’t we just all get along?” In order to live side-by-side with our family, friends and neighbors, it is vital to respect each other’s opinions and varying modes of cultural practices.
As our nation becomes more diverse, and digital media introduces us to more people from countries around the world, tolerance of other people’s beliefs becomes even more critical. While it is more than okay to have differing political ideologies, those divides should never polarize us to the point of becoming enemies.
As we trudge forward to the next presential election, the candidates, and their followers, will not always display the most civil behavior. But I hope that we, as a collective group of Americans, can implement strategies to come closer together. Instead of yelling at each other, let’s identify our commonalities and shared beliefs. Instead of using hurtful tactics to insult another person, let’s intelligently and kindly talk about each other’s different political belief systems.
In what ways do you think we can transcend the age of political polarization? How can we as individuals treat each other with more dignity and respect when discussing politics?
© 2020 Tyra Manning