America: Where Do We Go From Here?

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

Gwendolyn Janik, Writer

Proud boys protesting in the Capital. Antifa is protesting in Portland. Currently, we have a polarized society here in America. We have a lot of angry people, who want a lot of different things, and there will always be some arguments that arise. Some people will never get along. However, we should be working on trying to understand the “why” behind what people want. Do they want something because they would feel safer? Do they want something because they don’t like change? Do they want something because they do want change? All of these things are valid reasons, but we should communicate the “whys” so that it can spark discussion instead of dismissing each other as “stupid,” “malicious,” “dumb,” “evil,” “right-winged,” and “left-winged.” By dismissing each other, we are closing doors and cementing our beliefs that we and “our side” are the only ones who are right. Therefore, we are the only people smart enough to know what will work best for everyone. We have shut so many doors in each other’s faces that we are all offended that no one is listening to us. Then we go and close more doors out of spite. This has led to fighting within families and people in the same community. If we continue down this path, we could ruin our relationships with our community. As a country, we can become so divided that we become unable to make swift or logical decisions simply because we don’t agree with anything that the “other side” is saying.

There are some people, like my dad, that don’t talk to their siblings anymore due to differences of opinion. Politics have become such a central and heated part of our society that I have lost friends and potential friends because of class debates. In those debates, we were encouraged (as ignorant kids) to argue over highly debated topics that even the adults haven’t agreed on a “correct” or “good” conclusion. One person was especially upset about my view of things. Since then, she has cemented her belief that she is right about that particular topic. If she had listened to my “why” and had given me hers, we might still be friends now. In the classes I have taken these last few years, I learned new things and tried my best to keep my mind open to new perspectives. My own questions that I try to apply are, “What do I think and feel about this? Why do I think and feel this way?” I don’t always succeed in calmly following through with this thought process, but I am trying to get better at it. If those questions that I ask myself now were the point of the debates in class, students would probably be better able to communicate. Hopefully, there would be less animosity between people who don’t agree with each other. If we could share our “whys” more often, it can help us remember that we are all human. 

It is okay to ask, “Why do I think and feel this way?” and then not be sure why. If we are not sure why we have a greater opportunity to explore the subject with an open mind. Not only would we be thinking about how we feel about something, but while we are learning about the subject, we often stumble upon the “why.” Most subjects have grey zones where things are cloudy, and someone who doesn’t know much about that subject could easily get lost and scared. When we find something that scares us, we need to think about why it scares us, and we need to be prepared to share why, but we can’t cling to that fear. Driving is something that most people have had to learn. To a lot of new drivers, it is nerve-wracking. However, I know from experience that the more I practice driving, the more empowered I feel because I know more. The same is true of other subjects. 

When we talk with other people in our community and country, we need to work on thinking about things from their perspective and trying to understand how their experiences have shaped their beliefs. It is so easy to type our arguments and forget that there is another human receiving our message. When talking online, we should all work on framing our ideas in thoughtful, respectful ways. We should write in a way that we would want to be written to. The most important thing is to remember that we are all human, though we may have different backgrounds, we are still one nation and we should be trying to build each other up, not tear each other down.

Where we as a society go from here is up to us. So we need to share our whys, our thoughts, our fears. We need to open up with each other to work together. To understand each other, as well as ourselves better. You wouldn’t know it by watching Fox or CNN, but we are all Americans who want what is best for the country. We just have different ways of thinking, which is only useful if we come back together to work on improving our nation. Where we go is to tomorrow, but it will look just like today if we don’t start openly communicating and listening to each other.