Black and White, Left and Right, Radical and Sustaining, Angry and “Angry”. I’m gonna go over what each of these and their relationships, but what they all have in common is that they are each others’ opposition. The pairs are the two sides of the spectrum. But you don’t have to be just one. Recently individuals are only able to identify as one polarized thing and seen as just that, because the masses have refused to acknowledge any middle ground. This has lead us to toxic polarization and close mindedness, and to fight this we have to start listening to other about our relative and ever changing identities.
During my time participating in the Junior Statesmen of America (JSA), a young adults conference debating different political issues, I was happy to learn that most people our age agree that toxicity has arisen from the extreme polarities between liberal and conservative views. The two views have become so condensed and set in as the other’s opposite that it has crushed the holding of any “moderate” views. Both sides have gotten so concentrated in their own bubble that their screaming voices just bounce back at themselves off the wall and forbid any idea even slightly off point. But shutting out others’ voices is when we truly become stupid.
There must be room for moderacy. Nowadays, we ask if someone’s a democrat or a republican, but what’s a democrat but primarily typically liberal views and a republican being primarily typically conservative views. But then what are those? There are huge differences between political, financial, societal and personal views that can vary in how liberal or conservative they are. Each person is entitled to each of those views varying on the scale of liberal to conservative, which even then, may be outside of those ideals. We cannot know everything about a person’s view and exclude or include them based off the vague identity of democrat, republican, liberal or conservative.
I’m sure you have felt like you could only be one thing or the other before. You have felt like since you do not share 100% of the views of something you identify as, that community has found it fit to reject you. I’m half Chinese, but sometimes I’m not Chinese enough or white enough to fit into either one. Some feel not black enough or latino enough due to their outwards appearance and or cultural practices. We must end these stereotypes that ethnic and racial identities have a look or sometimes even a definition. By drawing the lines of exclusion, we alienate those who inherently belong to us. End racial and ethnic expectations because you are enough and should proudly wear your heritage, for they belong to you, no matter what anyone else says.
Definitions of what it means to fit in a group are created by us to seperate us. This is done in both a very productive way and a very unproductive way. I identify as a feminist and a vegan, meaning I consider myself apart of their groups. Both of these parties have foundations that make them what they are. Feminism: advocating for women’s equality, and vegan: excluding animals as food, products or entertainment. These foundations are inherent and the very baselines for what it means to be vegan or feminist. However, both of these groups branch into a thousand different categories with a thousand different practices and a thousand different stand points, which all contradict sometimes. Point is, groups and labels can have an inherent definition, but deterring away from what the majority think in the vast areas of relativity, doesn’t exclude you from the group. For example, a vegan who buys a second hand leather bag is still vegan and a feminist who is pro-Life is still a feminist. If you’re as open-minded and tolerant as you say, you’ll listen to what they have to say about their stances and beliefs. Although we were given two ears and one mouth, we’re talking over and tuning each other out more than ever before.
It’s pretty simple really. I’m Catholic, but not agreeing with every stereotypically catholic belief does not make me less Catholic. The Apostle’s Creed is a short prayerful piece that lists out the unarguable things one must believe to be Catholic. The whole piece is about 110 words long. Everything outside of those 17 lines are middle ground. An individual has the right to agree or disagree with anything outside those 110 words and still be Catholic.
Are we starting to get the hang of it? Not ALL of this doesn’t make it not this, and not that in EVERY WAY doesn’t make it not that. And we have to start listening to one another and open our minds the expand the possibilities. Having set definitions is like having high expectations, it only leads to disappointment.
My home of the East Bay Area is a leader in marches, protests, parades and civil disobedience. It’s a thing to attend the march together, design cool signs and post pictures of your time together standing up for a cause. But what happens if you didn’t go? What did it mean if you didn’t even feel compelled to go? IT MEANS YOU’RE AN ENEMY OF THE CAUSE. Ha ha no. Just because you’re not at the front lines doesn’t mean you’re not apart of the movement and certainly doesn’t mean you’re an enemy of it like many make it seem. We need to stop hating on people’s activism levels and understand they just may advocate in a different way. Stereotyping people as radical activist or enemies who are sustaining the current system only muddles our own understanding of one another. Not being the loudest advocate does NOT make you an enemy, and it doesn’t given them the right to exclude you from the movement.
Yes, standing up for your beliefs in some way within these movements is important. But being so angry you shout during the protests and light something on fire, is not superior to being so angry you run for office. Both are voices of change. I know it’s hard with a lot of issues to not get mad that someone’s not getting mad. The question is what are you doing with your energy…and why are you wasting it worrying about them? ANGER and anger can be used to burn yourself out, or light the way for others. Stop judging people for not being enraged, and educate them on what they may not be seeing or instead listen to how they’re using it to fuel a solution for the future.
You’ve probably come up with some ways this form of exclusion has either been enacted upon you, or maybe even how you’ve imposed it onto others. Most likely you’ve thought of people who have been close-minded in this way, but this dividing practice isn’t owned by one group or side. My example is how here in the Bay Area most young people tend to think that conservatives are the close-minded intolerant ones. But I got some news for you, close-minded intolerance isn’t a practices owned by a specific political side, it’s owned by human nature. The UC Berkeley campus has squashed any view outside the single polorizard liberal view in all political, financial, social and personal ways, in multiple public instances. This isn’t healthy or condusive. However, my friends in Georgia tell me this is also how their conservative majority treats the liberally minded. The point is that this isn’t a crime from a side, its a practice we’ve all picked up that’s just dividing us. This intolerance for middle ground and moderacy has ended the conversation and understanding between one other, and we have to bring it back.
You don’t have to be black and white on an issue, and next time someone is grey, listen as they tell you why they’re still considered black, white or just grey.
You’re not holistically defined by you conservative financial views and socially liberal ones. You’re allowed to vary and change, and so is she, he and them. Stop being so instantly defensive and practice some of that open-mindedness our generation is so proud of.
You can wave the banner or just act on your own time to be with a movement. No one has the right to kick you out just because you’re not a front runner. Stop limiting people’s identities just because they don’t advocate in the same ways.
You may get ANGRY about some issues, but just because someone isn’t expressing their emotions in that exact say way doesn’t define their opinions on the subject. Not everyone has as big a mouth as you… or as big a heart.
The practice of close-mindedness and exclusion is enacted by people, by humans, not by one group or stance. We must eliminate it as a practice, regardless of the subject at hand. Doing this will open back up our ears and be able to relate to one another so that we get off this toxic polarized path. No matter how you voted, in order to relate to our fellow humans, we have to build bridges, not walls.
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