By Kellen Bulger
In spite of my repeated warnings, a close of friend of mine recently made a Twitter account. They then proceeded to ask me “Who should I follow?”
I wanted to respond to this question as a nice friend should—with a list of perfectly curated musical artists whom they enjoy, political talking-heads who they would find thought-provoking and a myriad of other close acquaintances to polish it off. I didn’t do this though. Instead, I linked to them a list of conservative political figures who are self-determined “never Trumper’s”.
The reason I did this is that I believe our generation is in need of a vital treatment of listening to dissenting ideas from their own. Now let me prelude this with, I am in no way saying that you have to approach people who hold rather heinous opinions. However, tribalism has infected our political climate and this is nowhere better seen than on a college campus like ours. When I walk out the doors after the conclusion of another politics class at Willamette, it appears as though over the course of the semester we were lucky if we found more than a handful of issues in which we truly disagreed on. We all become begrudgingly stunted over the course of the semester from being able to have genuinely thought-provoking conversations and this is largely due to the fact that homogeneity in ideas and tribalism has touched every part of, not only our campus, but much of this younger-generation as a whole.
The University of Exeter published a neurological study in 2013 which studied different regions of the brain and found that by simply performing a risk-taking exercise with the individual, like gambling, that they could predict someone’s political affiliation with 83 percent accuracy. This shouldn’t be so. Gambling and party affiliation have absolutely zero relatability to each other and never have. The fact that this can be done presents a problem. Before I proceed though, I will concede that many individuals can simply have similar outsets on the world which leads them to align themselves with one side politically, but this cannot simply account for the level of tribalism we see today. Finding someone on the political left or right who has a myriad of positions spanning the political spectrum is akin to a week without rain in western Oregon—that is, it simply quite rare indeed.
This is in no way an argument or testimonial attempting to move young people closer to established parties and/or moderating your stances on a variety of policies for the sake of nuance. I actually think there are a lot of distinct advantages to this age of political polarization in bringing otherwise uninterested individuals to realizing that politics does actually matter. It’s becoming growingly less-acceptable to merely determine yourself as a “non-political” person. However, this is an absolute call for our generation to approach each idea with a clear-conscience, free of outside influences or preconceived judgements.
I yearn for dissenting opinions in today’s political climate and for people to find issues that we disagree on. I believe that it is not in discussions where two-people are sharing their passion over a similarly viewed issue in which this country will bridge our ideological divide that exists, but it is in having those sometimes tense, uncomfortable and nuanced conversations where we grow as individuals.
One example that I love to point to is the purging of elected officials on both sides. I regularly see graphics posted from sources that are rather lacking in their objectivity, exclaiming things like “Flood Cory Booker’s office with calls and emails! He voted against the importation of cheap drugs from Canada!” While if the goal of a provocative infographic is to mobilize a side towards a certain issue, that’s fine. However, what I don’t condone is an attacking someone because they do not perfectly align with your viewpoints. In the words of our former President Barack Obama “Don’t boo! Vote!”
One thing that accepting people who are on our side might have slightly different ideas on specific policies than us will most certainly do is make these aforementioned classes at colleges and universities further ripe for debate and create an environment where we don’t absolutely demonize dissenting ideas from our own.
Instead of blindly following in the light of someone who you generally agree on issues, let’s make this generation one of freethinkers. A generation that can effectively begin to bridge the ever growing ideological gap that exists today.