Alright millennials, we need to talk.
In a time when we’re surrounded by anger politics, we need to step up as leaders and teach the rest of society some lessons we’ve apparently forgotten.
We need to relearn how to be humble, how to accept that people can disagree with us and how to welcome healthy debate, not suffocate it.
The age of polarity
A lot of millennials have succumbed to the disturbing falsehood that America’s political spectrum is a binary, zero-sum game.
For example, if you tell someone that you’re a Republican, you’re immediately labeled a racist bigot who supports Donald Trump. At the same time, if you say you support Bernie Sanders, then people label you a card-carrying socialist who doesn’t understand economics.
The reality is that politics, like almost anything worthwhile, is not this simple at all. There are plenty of people who support Trump who are not, in fact, racist bigots. Likewise, plenty of Sanders supporters did just fine in economics classes and have no interest in turning the country into the Soviet Union.
People can support a candidate or an idea while still being a moderate person.And that’s okay. The idea that someone can be embodied by some pre-packaged stereotype based upon their political support is ridiculous.
The ratings-crazed, 24/7 media fuels the fire here, refusing to distinguish all points within the spectrum from the radical positions at the pole ends. Just because one person, or a subset of people, do something awful or detrimental does not, and should not, be an indictment of an entire group.
Make America … humble again?
Something apparent across television, news outlets, social media and even my college campus, is the fact that very few people really care about healthy discussion and debate. Far too many people, when faced with the concept that someone disagrees with them, immediately label that person as the enemy.
What happened to being able to disagree with someone? What happened to the integrity of free speech in this country?
We all understand that people try abuse free speech by saying and spreading awful, un-American things. But I’m talking about the people on college campuses and at family dinner tables who can’t get five words out of their mouth before being labeled a racist pig or a dumbass socialist.
You have two ears and one mouth for a reason; it won’t kill you to act accordingly.
Americans hate being wrong
I actually stray from the word “wrong” as much as I possibly can because I like to replace it with another one: “learn.” I don’t tell myself I got seven questions wrong on an Econometrics midterm, I tell myself there are seven questions from which I can learn.
You’d be surprised what happens if you made this small change and carry it into every day discussions and debates.
If I’m debating facts, figures and statistics, I don’t consider someone correcting a statistic of mine as an affront to my dignity. Most of the time, I try to take their feedback onboard and remember it for later use.
This is a very good skill in life to have; being able to swallow your pride and just say, “You know what, when it comes to the cold hard facts, you’re right and I can take something from this.”
Uninformed vs. misinformed
Another important aspect of political discourse is the distinction between voters being uninformed versus misinformed. Many voters are considered “uninformed” by folks on the opposite side of the spectrum. However, not all of these folks are actually uninformed, so as much as they are misinformed; this causes some problems.
People tend to intertwine opinion with fact and many candidates perpetuate this. Whether it be Trump supporters, Sanders fans and everyone in between, people who take opinions as facts often are not receptive to feedback and alternative opinions.
This then further perpetuates our ever-growing divide, instead of serving as an opportunity to bridge the gap between stances.
On the other hand, debate exists regarding things that you feel emotional about, things that you care about. Debates on these topics are obviously much more heated and, unfortunately, tend to bring out the worst in people.
The key to debating and discussing effectively is to understand two things:
- People can disagree with you in this country, no matter how much you hate their ideas
- You actively represent what you stand for in how you discuss and debate with people.
There are plenty of people who support Donald Trump who aren’t racist and want the best for everyone in the country. Also, there are plenty of people who support Bernie Sanders who are level-headed, rational-thinking people.
Politics aside, we have to learn how to learn again, not perfect how to reject debate.
Healthy discussion is a good thing and while it can bring out the worst in people, we must understand that we live in a free country where people can, and should, disagree with each other; it’s a cornerstone of freedom in a democracy.