Nowadays, it’s become more frequent that I hear my parents tell me, “Things are much different than when we were your age.” Whenever I hear it, I decode it as, “This country is going to hell.” Perhaps that’s not quite the case, but it is true that things have been changing a lot recently in this country – some changes being better than others. One big change I’ve noticed recently (but have tried to avoid) is the fact that politics has managed to wiggle its way into our everyday conversations and interactions. It’s true that being politically engaged is important because it does affect our everyday lives, but there comes a point where it becomes unproductive rather than productive.
Politics is a topic that is meant to encourage rousing debates and exchanging of ideas and viewpoints – which are productive. However, it has become less a topic of debate and civil discussion and more of a shouting match and competition as to who can fling the most feces at the other. We have gotten to a point where we can say unabashedly, “That person is a Republican, so I can’t associate with them,” or “That person is a Democrat, so I can’t be friends with them.” If a person can say either of those things and not see anything wrong with them, then that is a problem.
A lot of the blame for this occurrence can be placed on our political parties, which have become increasingly polarized in recent years. The Democratic Party will constantly tell you that the Republicans are fear-mongers, bigots and racists. Meanwhile, the Republican Party will tell you that the Democrats are totalitarians, hypocrites and unpatriotic. But are these labels really 100 percent accurate? The answer is no.
Our parties say these things in order to keep and gain power over their registered voters and the American public as a whole. George Washington even warned us about this in his Farewell Address. The Father of Our Country stated: “[The party] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.” And he was right. They have turned us against each other with “ill-founded jealousies” and has created animosity against each other.
When we go to help a person, we never ask them, “Who did you vote for in the last election?” in order to decide if we should help them or not. Contrary to popular belief, political beliefs do not tell you everything you need to know about a person. Being a college student, I have met many people that I wholeheartedly disagree with politically; but they are kind, funny and decent people that love this country as much as I do. I have friends that are Libertarian and I have friends that are even socialists, but those labels do not define the character of a person. We are all Americans first. We all want the best for our country and the last thing we want is to be divided. So let’s stop it with this political divisiveness.
How about the next time you meet someone, ask them what their favorite sports team is instead of what they think of Hillary or Trump. But if you really want to have that conversation, keep it civil and keep an open mind. Just because someone might disagree with you does not make them a bad person.
We will never be fully able to see eye-to-eye on things and that is okay. That is what America is about and that is what our belief in individualism is about. This country was founded on the principle that many people are allowed to believe different things but still remain united in our patriotism. We have to continue to be a united United States and not let our politics and our parties get the best — or in this case, worst — of us. I can assure anyone reading this that the Democrat or Republican you know from work, church or school has a lot more in common with you than not. We may disagree on how to do things when it comes to politics, but we all want the same things, we enjoy the same things and we all certainly want what is best for our country. We cannot allow ourselves to remain polarized and retain our hostility against each other because, to paraphrase President Lincoln, a nation divided against itself cannot stand.
Nick Thompson is a Piqua resident who is currently studying communications at The Ohio State University.