In the culture that we live in right now, it’s nearly impossible to set apart your political thoughts and opinions from your identity. We clearly and distinctly label ourselves “Democrat” or “Republican” and “Liberal” or “Conservative” and ignore the fact that there are a good portion of people that sit somewhere between the two. I believe it is in this need to have everyone neatly labeled that is forcing us boil down our entire identity into our political leanings. This gross misunderstanding of identity continues to lead to problematic and uncooperative strife in our communities.
It comes as no surprise that our society and media want us to think that our entire identity lies in our political leanings.
It is the easiest way to live, in a black and white, no middle ground society, where we can clearly say they are wrong and I am right, Democrats are all wrong and Republicans are all right. And this mindset is adding to the increasing inability for anything good to be accomplished in terms of politics, among many other problems.
It’s this “all or nothing” attitude towards politics that doesn’t allow us to see the grey areas of people’s leanings, to see political sides as one’s opinion on certain things, and not as an affront toward your right to an opinion. It truly seems that many people want to write the other side of as being the enemy, to simplify the disagreement so drastically that it’s basically a little kid with his hands over his ears.
In this election cycle, a more dramatic one than we’ve seen in a long time, I think a lot of peoples eyes have been opened to the want for concrete right and wrong in our society, to be able to neatly label everything as either right or wrong.
In my own family, I’ve seen family members I value as smart and competent, realistic people that will vote for someone I couldn’t imagine becoming president. It would be easiest to dismiss them as dumb or misinformed, but I think it’s in admitting that their opinion is valid and taken seriously is the far better course.
For instance, my father works for a big business, so it makes sense for him to vote for the candidate that will promote his industry and retirement by supporting big business. And while I can respectfully disagree with their opinions, there is a certain peace that comes with realizing that that person is not solely defined by who they’re voting for this election season or what their view on “x” issue is.
It’s seeing the whole picture of them as a person, how they grew up, what shaped their life.
Unfortunately this is much harder to see in big groups of people as we don’t know them on a personal basis, and it is thus much easier to label them all as hateful people that shouldn’t have the right to vote. I think it helps to think of the “other side” as not just proponents of handouts or institutionalized racism, it’s seeing them as a daughter, or father, or brother, that is the hardest but most meaningful thing to do. And I think it makes the road to cohesiveness that much more likely.
So in the wake of the results that are to come Tuesday, let’s hold on to people’s identities that aren’t related to politics. A father. A brother. A sister. A friend. Anything to make that gap between us all smaller and filled with kindness.