Positive discourse is needed in a tense political climate

Belle Wilson, Editor-in-Chief

We should all stand by the right to free speech, regardless of each others’ political ideologies. However, in the political climate of today, this statement is easier said than done.

A recent poll from the Cato Institute shows that 62% of Americans feel the need to self-censor their politics. With the fear of expressing one’s own opinions, it’s impossible to have political discourse with peers.
It’s easy as humans to have the poisonous notion we’re all guilty of from time-to-time: that our peers who disagree with us are inherently evil and are our enemies. However, this notion is the barrier between having an open dialogue in order to gain respect, understanding, and overall unity with fellow Americans.
In a 2019 Pew survey, more Americans responded that they see “very strong” partisan conflicts in this past election year more than ever before.
Actor Chris Pratt recognizes the political divide the United States is in and started a new production company in Hollywood called “Indivisible Productions” in order to provide a non-partisan opportunity for Americans to heal.
This idea of having a place for Americans to openly discuss and share personal accounts is exactly what our country needs. The way to have unity is not giving people entertaining content for one particular political audience. It’s providing Americans with a variety of options so that each individual can listen and learn from each other.
It’s also important to look into what causes Americans to feel so divided. One key aspect of political division is watching the mainstream media constantly. This is because of the constant cycle of information addiction the media loops Americans into.
News reported by the media, no matter the political affiliation of the outlet, often is being fed to Americans with a clear bias. It comes to the point where it’s hard for both sides of the political spectrum to form their own opinions because the facts become too mixed with commentary.
Although it’s important to stay informed with current events to an extent, it’s hard with openly-biased media to form an opinion because opinions may be formed for you. With two conflicting viewpoints, it’s hard to decipher what is factual or just a personal viewpoint. This has made people on both political spectrums so enthralled with the opinions of the media that it’s hard to view our peers as equals and not enemies.
It’s like we’re inherently pinned against each other.
Also, news covered by the media are many times conflicts occurring that are out of our control. This anxiety causes people to stay glued to the news in order to receive some sort of closure regarding the topic.
Even if the news updates to end the story, another piece of breaking news causes another outrage of uncontrollable anticipation.
This addition to relying on the media may cause people to completely avoid human interactions and dialogue. The constant stream can present a view that the world is filled with non-stop evil and injustice.
Author Eric Rittmeyer, in his article “Emotional Intoxication,” refers to this feeling as a level of “emotional overload.” That makes it “just about impossible” for people to process information logically. Reactions to information people read turns out to be more emotionally-based rather than factual.
This passionate and emotional connection to what people believe in is important in exercising free speech, but people shouldn’t let their personal feelings deter them from listening to other perspectives. Remember, you may not agree with what someone else says, but as an American, you should always defend their right to say it.
If Americans spent more time looking up from their phones and going out in the community to have engaging conversations with neighbors, it would break Americans’ dependence on the mainstream media. Spending actual time improving and developing our community is key to unity and, therefore, should be a focus that everyone keeps in mind.
Seeing the world through one’s own lens without looking at the media helps to develop a deeper understanding of the world that surrounds us. Spending more time paying attention to our own environment and recognizing how others’ environment differs allows for people to gain more mutual respect for their peers.
It’s time as Americans to not let political discourse be the source of anger and frustration. It’s time to be logical and optimistic. Instead of automatically assuming the worst of someone with a different political ideology simply because it’s what you feel you’re “supposed” to do, form your own opinion.
At the end of the discussion, maybe you won’t feel differently and stay true in your beliefs. The point is that open and respectful conversation can go a long way with making others feel heard and valued. That is how as a nation we will reach unity. Negativity and division will never promote healing.
If we all spent a little more time focusing on what we have alike rather than the things that drive us apart, the political climate can change for the better. – Belle Wilson