By ALEX PECHA
Did you know that in today’s society you have to either be far right or far left? It’s true. If you’re on the left you need to be a gun-hating, communist-loving bleeding heart liberal; and if you’re on the right you have to be gay-hating, Trump-loving fascist. Most of all, you need to hate anyone who is on the other side with a burning and vehement passion.
What if I told you that life was a little more complicated than that? What if I said that it’s possible to be pro-gun while still calling for meaningful gun control laws? Perhaps you can believe in climate change but also want to see more of an emphasis on state’s rights?
This isn’t exactly as far-fetched as one would think. Many people have these complicated opinions that would put them closer to the middle than just on the far right or the far left; and it is so frustrating to be one of these people and for someone to throw me into a simplified group that is either a dirty commie or fascist scum.
When having discussions with people I’ve just met it’s pretty incredible how quickly I’ll get categorized into one party or the other, and the best part is it tends to go both ways. One day I’ll be a god-fearing Republican because I expressed my enjoyment of gun rights and the next day I’ll be a bleeding-heart Democrat because I expressed a desire for socialized health care.
Now to be fair, I’m very much a left-leaning person. The question is, why does that matter? Why have liberal and conservative become such horrible labels depending on your associations? It’s become common and acceptable to dismiss someone and their opinions based on which side of the political spectrum they come from.
Part of this comes from polarizing media. Conservative pundits like Steven Crowder and Sean Hannity purposefully demonize people on the left as America-hating morons. (My personal favorite had to be when Steven Crowder penned a piece literally calling Liberals as a whole un-American.)
Meanwhile, leftist pundits on websites like Buzzfeed, The Young Turks and Salon push the idea that everyone on the right hates the LGBT movement and wants to kill anyone whose skin is “too dark.”
These are all popular media personalities who reach millions of people, and in some cases these people are in an echo chamber where their friends, family and entertainment are all just on one political side. When you spend your entire day having every single left or right belief continuously reinforced and any non-left or right aligning belief harassed you’ll eventually come to believe what the majority of your life is yelling at you.
There’s actually a communications theory on this called “The Spiral of Silence” which I highly encourage you to look into more in your free time, but I digress.
When you have people essentially being indoctrinated to believe these polarizing views about the other party and to make snap judgments about their character based on one of their political beliefs you create a political climate that is essentially volatile and unwelcoming to people who lean more towards the center. You are actively pushed to essentially choose a side and often people will.
This is a shame because it stops people from doing their own research and coming to their own conclusions. You begin to have a scenario where people believe in what they do because that is what they have been told to believe, not because that’s what they want to believe.
There is very little emphasis in today’s day and age about actually researching your own opinion and trying to form a stance based on critical thinking and facts.
Even worse, when people try to do research they are often suggested to use biased and broken sources such as Salon or Breitbart, which are disreputable sources at best.
I highly encourage anyone reading this to take a long hard look at their beliefs and ask, “Do I believe this because it makes sense to me or do I believe this because it’s what people around me believe?”
If you find it to be the second answer, open Google and do some research. You can start with Wikipedia and move up to more credible sources such as actual academic papers and credible news sources (The BBC, The New York Times, etc).
On top of that, don’t judge someone because they are on the “other side” from you, actually take the time to learn and understand someone’s beliefs. You may be surprised by what you find and why people believe what they believe, and perhaps they may even change your mind on the topic.
Be open to mental challenges, and constantly grow your world view. That’s what a good American does.