Asking a young liberal to be friends with a conservative — or God forbid vice versa — is like asking a millennial to give up their iPhone 6s.
You’ll be laughed at and maybe even given a list of reasons as to why that will never, ever happen. And then your request will be ignored.
During this past presidential election, America has seen a deep divide grow between the two leading political parties in Washington D.C. Unfortunately, that divide has spread itself outside of the nation’s capital. Now, nearly every nook and cranny of American life has been forced to lean politically left or right, including news sources and social media.
No matter if the stalemate between Republicans and Democrats began in Washington D.C. or in the middle of America, high schoolers’ belief in the complete and total wrongness of an opposite party can only lead to closed-minded individuals.
What concerns me most is when this divide impacts who people choose to associate with, which is what I see happen at East. As a liberal who is surrounded by mostly liberals throughout my school day, I hear these divisive phrases and others like them often:
“I would never date a conservative…”
“Yeah, but he’s a Republican, so are we really surprised?”
“She spends most of her time with conservatives.”
When political differences start to interfere with friendships, it becomes concerning. Friendships are what help us understand each other. It’s why you still ride in the car with your best friend even when she drives at the pace of Mission Road traffic on a late start today. It’s the reason you give the latest Chainsmoker’s EDM a listen — because a new friend really likes it. Many times, it’s the reason we peek outside of our comfort zones.
Friendship is sometimes the only substance that ties two people together. Though their thoughts, lives and beliefs may be totally different, a friendship overcomes these and forces both into an understanding.
If we want to move forward, past this stalemate, we — liberals and conservatives — need to get over ourselves. At most, no one should be jumping to conclusions based on what party we hear a person associates with, because that’s called prejudice — something liberals are supposed to be standing against. It’s also called having a closed mind.
At best, we should be seeking out those of the opposite party to talk with, to debate with, to hear out. We can gain understanding of their perspective and reasoning behind their thoughts. Plus, we may find that we like the other side more than we think.
My experience with this tactic has been wholly positive. In my political conversations with a conservative friend, I learned how to get along with someone I fundamentally disagree with, a vital life skill. I learned how to understand the conservative point of view and what conservatives (at least this one) weren’t educated about. It also showed me what I wasn’t educated about.
Our country needs to start dropping their childish prejudices against the party they oppose and start reaching out and listening to the other side. We’ve been covering our ears, closing our eyes and shaking our heads in an attempt to discredit them. We need to make more of an effort. Ask someone of the opposite party why they believe what they do and where that belief came from. Then think about how that differs from your own.
The current party deadlock ended in the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States. Yes, I’m liberal, but I think everyone can agree that his election deviates immensely from every previous president. So if Donald Trump came out of one political deadlock, I can only imagine what will happen by the time this generation comes to office — the generation that won’t be friends with the other political party in high school.
Let’s change that.