A Refusal to Give Into Polarization

The United States of America is headed in a new direction and I find myself asking the same question. How did we get to this point?

As a person of color, a woman, a child of immigrants, a multi-lingual and multi-cultural person, an artist, an educator, a young person, a believer of science, a progressive, and many other identities, there are things that are happening in the United States that are scaring me.

It’s not just the executive orders, the cabinet appointments, or the denial of scientific fact from the Trump Administration that scare me. It’s also the instability of American society as a whole. For every insult I see from the Right, there’s an insult from the Left. It’s becoming harder and harder for me to parse out constructive debate from all the noise. The extreme polarization of the American public seems like the perfect setup for something more grave in the future.

I am not going to make a naïve call for unity and pretend that people’s fears are unfounded. However, I am going to make the call for us to step outside of our own echo chambers and really listen to the stories of others.

Personally, I want to understand the complicated issues of health care, immigration, international trade, sustainable development, identity politics, military spending, and more from as many perspectives as I can. And even though I have an education, I’m not afraid to admit that there is still so much out there that I am only barely beginning to understand. Even typing this list of topics is overwhelming.

But where better to begin than picking up a book?

In the next couple of months (realistically we’re probably looking at years, maybe even a lifetime), I want to challenge myself to read books, articles, and consume media that I might not initially be drawn to in order to get a more holistic idea of what’s happening in the world. But more than that, I want to meaningfully engage with others who do not share my current points of view. I refuse to continue living my life only looking at the things that make me comfortable.

I’m tired of drowning in the this or that, right or wrong, winner or loser rhetoric. I have to trust that getting into the mindset of another perspective is not going to pose a threat to progress or morality, but instead doing so will nourish my understanding of them.

With that in mind, I wanted to write this short entry to remind myself to push my personal limits. I’m going to reach for that tome by that thinker I’ve been avoiding. I’m going to watch that political commentator that makes my skin crawl. I’m going to choose activities, listen to music, and follow the Facebook page of that group that I despise because it’s all these little things that shape a person’s way of thinking. These are the ways that I’m going to try to understand experiences outside of my own.

I’m sure the changes in the type of media and culture I consume will influence how I think about certain topics, but that’s exactly the point. It seems to me that holding a hard line one hundred percent of the time doesn’t always get us closer to where we want to be. Closing my eyes to the things that I dislike does not mean that they are going to disappear.

Now the question that remains on my mind, wouldn’t it be great if we as a society could just allow ourselves to constantly form and reform our opinions as we are exposed to more perspectives without fear of being kicked out of Team A or Team B?

Until then, I’m going to be rebelling by carrying out this little challenge for myself.

We’ll see how far I can go.

One comment

  1. You will be surprised to hear that I have reconsidered many issues in my life. I grew up believing exactly what my parents taught me, which is pretty typical. In the first round of college, I did not change my beliefs much but experimented with behavior anyway. The following decade became a blur of marriage and children; who has time to think then? However, the wheels started to turn and I slowly re-examined everything about what I was told and the alternatives. (It helped to take a logic course: there is either absolute truth or there isn’t.) Once you find Truth, you continually go deeper in your search, but the constant push/pull of everyone’s various opinions do not rock your boat as much. Kudos to you for embarking on this challenge of re-examination so young in life.


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