In light of recent events in the United States and around the world, it is safe to say that the polarized political and social opinions have become increasingly apparent. The American election has come to a close, but the several debates related to gender and race that were sparked by the election have only just begun, and the responses have spread throughout the world. As a student in a Canadian Liberal Arts college, it is almost impossible to go through an entire day without encountering a conversation about how gender and race influence and are affected by politics. Because these topics often generate emotional reactions, it can be really difficult to have constructive conversations about them.
However, we cannot choose to turn a blind eye, or shy away from discussing the reality that we live in. The American election has revealed and mobilized those who identify with the much more extreme aspects of both right and left wing politics. In situations like these, it is crucial to avoid a buildup of anger and aggression, and one of the best ways to do so is to strive for open conversation and freedom of expression from both sides of the debate.
We should all challenge ourselves to stop being afraid of what is different from ourselves. Whether you are enthusiastic about welcoming refugees or not, make a conscious effort to learn about the opposite side of the argument. There is no sense in only understanding the debate from one point of view. In fact, as many political science professors encourage their students to do, it can be very useful to purposely seek out sources that are not in line with your own beliefs. As difficult as that may be, it is the only way to get the full picture of a complex situation. This presidency is a reality; real people voted, and the issues at hand are no longer hypothetical. We have to be willing to have conversations about this, and to show compassion towards those who are unlike us.
We can’t keep marching in opposite directions. We can’t turn our backs on each other. The farther we drift from each other, and the more ground each extreme of the debate gains, the more backlash will be generated from the other side. By all means, stand up for what you believe in, but in doing so, try to welcome others’ opinions and replies. Conversations go two ways, and we will not achieve any compromises if we can’t even bear the thought of listening to one another. Any chance of progress is completely destroyed if we can’t look at someone in the eye, accept that we have different values, and respectfully voice our opinions. This presidency is testing our patience and our tolerance. Through all this, we should try our very best to not let controversial issues divide us. Compassion is stronger than fear.