The Divided States of America
Agreeing to disagree
NOTE: This piece was published on boosterredux.com on Feb. 5, 2018. Click here to view it online.
This simple, yet powerful phrase is my life motto. I hold an immense amount of pride in my words and opinions. I am never afraid to defend them when they are attacked or support them when they are questioned.
But unfortunately, my opinions have also made me a target of hurtful insults. Oftentimes, when people do not agree with my viewpoint, they do not attack my opinions — they attack me.
Just this year, three middle-aged adults called me a “liberal snowflake,” “social justice warrior” and several other vicious names after I told them of my pro-choice stance on abortion. These people were willing to risk their relationships with me because of differing opinions.
Unfortunately, this is a problem not just for me, but for our entire country. In the past few years, personal attacks over differing viewpoints have proliferated to an absolute, unhealthy extreme.
We defend our opinions while shattering our respect for each other into pieces.
The start of this issue traces back to two well-known people — the then GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump and democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
When the two took the stage for their first debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, they ignored foreign policy issues crucial to our country and instead, attacked each other.
Clinton accused Trump of living in his own reality. Trump fired back by literally calling her “the devil,” according to USA Today’s coverage.
Two candidates vying for the highest seat in the nation normalized harsh, verbal attacks simply because they did not agree with each other. Trump even went on to attack one percent of the entire 52 person GOP conference between his time as a candidate and his first nine months in the White House, according to CNN’s coverage.
You can’t even open a newspaper or social media page today without seeing politically motivated negativity on another person.
When I was doing research for my upcoming congressional debate tournament a few days ago, I came across an article that proves my point. The article was headlined “Democrats Are Hypocrites on Corruption” and it was from foreignpolicy.com. As the title implies, the article brought up evidence about democrats’ past actions proving they were corrupt.
I had hoped to read about a policy-based topic, but I ended up reading an article about something entirely different.
How can we avoid personal attacks when the media has normalized covering politicians not for their views on policy, but their own persona?
For a while, I thought this problem had died down. I was wrong.
When teacher Deyshia Hargrave spoke up about her low pay in a school board meeting after her superintendent’s $30,000 raise, she was thrown in jail.
Our country is hypocritical. We have a strong First Amendment allowing for freedom of speech, press, religion assembly and petition, yet those who exercise these rights get personally attacked, insulted, ostracized and even arrested.
Enough is enough.
America is special because it was built on the foundation of clash. Having different opinions is a good thing, but losing our respect for each other just because we do not agree with each other is not. We should be proud of each other’s opinions, not mad or angry.
Seeing things from different perspectives is a skill that we should embrace. If we are vying for our own opinions constantly and shutting everyone else out, then what is our chance of getting a job or even socializing? But if we see from another person’s side, we can learn new skills and build new relationships.
If we continue attacking people personally for their opinions, our country will be built on hate. Is that really the example we want to set?
Art by | Gabe Anderson