The Rise of Polar Disparity
Why is debating such an important trait to American society? What difference does it make how we talk or get along with one another? If we could only leave each other alone, and stay out of one anthers way, then everyone is happy. However, it is crucial to interact with opponents if we want a continuously functional society. Unfortunately, not everyone will agree on what should be done in the end. Once the outcome is determined, there will be a few people who are not happy with the decision. A recent example may be the election of President Donald J. Trump. When he was declared the winner, not everyone agreed with the decision, some even protested. How do we make decisions that could theoretically please everyone, when not everyone agrees on what should be done? There is no perfect solution to this dilemma. There will always be some people who are unhappy with the outcome the society decides and as such are forced to obey that decision.
Professor of Communications Theory at Princeton University, Nick Morgan sums up todays status quo regarding debating in America by saying, “Current day relationships of people with politically opposite fundamental perspectives have dwindled in society”. Due to a growing sense of disparity in classes within America, the current state of public discourse, or debating on political issues, has progressed into a destructive state of illogical and one-sided way of thinking. As a result, our nation can no longer compromise on serious issues that impacts millions of Americans, which is a very serious dilemma for our society. The systematic roots of this problem can be visibly seen in the fields of psychology, history, and communications, where civil discourse is key to problem solving. This is mostly caused through the development of children and the current influences of mass media impacting the youth. However, it is possible to encourage healthier debating and compromise by creating a deeper sense of empathy towards the other person. We need to fix this fundamental trait of human culture if we are to progress as one human race. The left and the right, no matter how bipolar their reasoning may seem, all have one common goal – to allow America and its citizens to live a prosperous and happy life.
Civil disobedience is currently on the rise the past few years as political tensions are rising. The root of this problem stems from the changing political ideology in America that comes from the rise of what I will call, ‘selective segregation’. Today’s society employs a fear tactic to their own kind against other races they deem as threating. To keep from sounding bias, I must first state that aggressive extremism stems from both ends of the political spectrum. Take for example a group that has been around for 154 years, and a well know terror group would be the Ku Klux Klan. For over a century the group has tried so hard to segregate communities by skin color and religion. It has taken nearly 100 years of fixing the systemic problem, and it unfortunately still affects a few today. Due to this, they end up being screwed by society when trying to get somewhere with their lives. However, this has sparked another controversial debate regarding Black Lives Matter (BLM) and other similar and more oppressive “social justice” leagues. Almost everyone in America now agrees that there have still been unjust systematic flaws that have targeted certain groups. So is BLM and Social Justice Warriors actually helping their groups? The answer is no. In fact, they have been doing quite the opposite and are causing a higher rate of hate crimes and bipolar situations according to a current study published by the University of Chicago. Four Law professors from the top law schools published the study “Racial Segregation Patterns in Selective Universities” to address the problem of groups segregating themselves. They found that a majority of their “pro-segregation” participants could not argue a justified or logical reason as to why its better to be with their “own-kind”. This is due to their lack in ability to compromise on an issue that may make them feel uncomfortable. The issue of feeling uncomfortable when debating a controversial issue has been a hot topic question recently with the rise of millennials.
Safe spaces are commonly known as a place where one can feel safe in a room with a group of people who will not threaten or intimidate anyone. What is supposed to make someone feel safe, is only hurting them, their friends, and society itself. For instance, BLM leader, Alicia Garza once stated in a speech, “We need more housing options for black students. Let them live in an apartment building that is entirely a safe space. There will be less violence and less crime since there can be no room for bias if we are all the same”. This speech came from the incident at UCLA where a group of black students proposed a plan to build a new student apartment devoted entirely to black students. The idea was shut down by the administration due to legalality. Other than being illegal as it would segergate a group based on race, it also brings up a more concerning issue regarding the “comfortable” debate. Which is that one should not debate with another if they have different ideologies. Many far left and right thinkers believe this type of ideology. Where they see their opponents as enemies, and believe that anyone who does not share the same beliefs as them are equivalent to monsters. This has been the common way of dealing with controversial issues. When someone feels uncomfortable discussing a controversial issue with a person offering a different perspective, it’s common for the offended party to shut down their opponents by labeling them rather than debating them.
The tactic of labeling an opponent has become one of the most widely used debating ploys. Examining mass media, specifically the topic of debating politics, I found the debaters would degrade their p-opponent’s reputation based entirely on a false assumption. This type of discussion is not how we compromise, but rather cause more people to become polar on issues. This polarity is a primary cause for the rise of extremism and violence against groups as previously discussed. But why is this occurring now, and has it been a problem in the past? Part of the problem stems from media news outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, Fox, and many other biased news outlets. Originally, news was meant to show the most important occurrences that should be known by the general public, such as a disaster, election, or health safety warning. Today’s news is now “news media”, meaning news for the purpose of media entertainment. Today’s largest news organizations use twitter and Instagram, as well as other social media outlets. Where journalists or analysts are publishing their personal, unchecked, and biased views via social media, some people can get confused and call it legitimate news. These exact instances have occurred multiple times in the era of Trump. Once false accusations are made, other people use them to debate others on the same platform. Consider Brian L. Ott, Director of Communication Studies at Texas University, wrote the paper “The Age of Twitter: Donald J. Trump and the Politics of Debasement”, He explains multiple flaws that are found in social media and how the majority (61%) of Americans use it as their 1st news source. For example, he states, “Twitter structurally disallows the communication of detailed and sophisticated messages. To be clear, a Tweet may be clever or witty, but it cannot be complex”. The structure of Twitter is set up so that one cannot type a message more than 160 characters. This means that there is limited space to get a point across. So rather than elaborating on something you said about climate change, you must state everything you believe about it in less than 50 words. The only way to do this is to be short. This often comes across to others as a brute attack against what they believe in, and therefore must respond back with snide counterarguments. This form of discussion is one of the worst causes of polar resentment. It is much easier to harass and troll a person who you are not in face contact with. If we continue this trend of short arguing one another, then the progress America has gone so far to make, will dwindle like the great Roman Empire.
If we want to help fix this issue, then its important to understand the influences of the classroom atmosphere will have on developing minds. According to Jordan Peterson, Doctor of Clinical Psychiatry at the University of Toronto has several published papers regarding this research topic. Peterson explains exactly what influences a person’s political identity has on their ability to compromise. In his paper, Compassionate Liberals and Polite Conservatives: Associations of Agreeableness With Political Ideology and Moral Values. Dr. Peterson gives reasoning, facts, and statistics behind a persons political identity and how it ties into their everyday life, while positively or negatively influencing their compassion towards the opposite side. In the paper he discusses his two studies, “using a personality model that divides each of the Big Five into two aspects, the present research found that one aspect of Agreeableness (Compassion) was associated with liberalism and egalitarianism, whereas the other (Politeness) was associated with conservatism and traditionalism”. Peterson articulates upon the traits that cause personalities to develop into their political identity. Understanding how someone develops certain ideology aspects allows us to better empathize with the opponent by considering how the other may rationalize their belief. Petersons research can open up a passage to how we can achieve a healthier political climate, which will also help people in the above stated fields to better compromise on complex scientific and political problems. The conclusion of his findings validate the importance of a young persons development in classroom. One solution would be to encourage an open debate style classroom in which kids are shown an informative video on a current political issue. Rather than allowing the teacher to tell the kids how to approach the issue, allow the kids to openly talk about what and how they feel about the topic. By employing this open debate, it builds the kids ability to deal with uncomfortable topics, and reason with their opposing groups to come up with their own conclusions. Open debating will allow younger kids to develop their own political ideology on their own, rather than being forced. Where forcing an ideology is along the lines of brainwashing, which harms a person’s ability to think for themselves.
Engagement with difficult ideas is the base of academic freedom, an idea that underlies the elements of a schools mission. Colleges and universities thrive on core principals around creating a well-rounded adult, therefore attention to civil discourse is not just possible but essential throughout the course of their academic career. Andrea Lekes, National intellectual and policy leader wrote, “the central mission of transmitting to the next generation as much as it can of human understanding, the academic community adds new knowledge to the existing store. It also serves the local and broader communities through its impact on the world of thought”. She claims that it is essential for students to be prepared and prepared for empathy towards others. Allegheny College Center for Political Participation conducted a national surveys on civility and compromise. Allegheny has a Prize for Civility in Public Life and sponsors Pathway to Civility, a gathering of more than two hundred national student leaders to discuss and practice civil dialogue. The poll, conducted in 2010 discloses that 95 percent of the participants believed civility in politics to be essential for a healthy democracy and 87 percent agreed that respectful discussion of political issues as a possibility. However, majority of people reported observing intolerance and hostility towards opposing parties. The study found that Young Democrat and Republican projects on campus set a high bar for the respectful exchange of ideas, but were often one sided on their beliefs and unwilling to change perspective.
There are many reasons why people do not try to stand up for their own beliefs, but they bring important differences to the table. Conflict is uncomfortable as most people do not know how to participate or manage a conflict in a positive way. In a poorly conducted conflict, people sometimes get hurt and become defensive as feel under attack personally. People are innately afraid that conflict will harm necessary and ongoing relationships. Disagreements are an inevitable, normal, and even healthy when relating to other people. We will never achieve a completely conflict-free world, where we live in a peaceful utopia; but when managed well conflicts can have lots of positive outcomes. More than 200 years ago, one of the greatest conflicts in American history occurred, the writing of the Constitution. Imagine how hard it must have been for 13 colonies to negotiate and agree one a single document that would rule the land for the rest of its existence. They succesfully debated issues on the most fundamental human rights, where each state had its own perception about how one should live. That task is impossible with the current state of public discourse in America. However, it possible for society to fix the roots of this problem if and only a dramatic change is made. That is, in order for the human race to continue progress into more advanced societies, we must learn to empathize with our opponents. Empathy is the most important perspective one can take when dealing with conflict because it is easier to understand how the other person develops their points. Whether it be a rich or poor person talking about wealth equality, both parties must understand how the other grew up, and what situations that person could have gone thru to develop their ideology. Only when both parties understand each other (again), will we get back on track to Make America Great Again.
Polarization based solely on political ideology is destroying the Nations foundation. The founding fathers would be rolling over in their graves if they were to hear about our broken two party system. It is important to restate our status quo with regards to conflict. Currently the state of public discourse is broken and needs to be badly revived. The most important factor to consider when debating someone is empathy towards that individual. Remember that one can only truly understand another person’s view if they try to empathize where that person came from that created their political identity. My hope for society is that one day we can teach our children the proper way of civil discourse so that we can continue to face conflicts as a community and tackle the problems with unity.