We live in a world of polarizing politics and dehumanization. It seems that you’re either on one side or the other and there isn’t any in between. We are battling each other; you’re Republican or Democrat, pro-choice or pro-life. You believe in universal healthcare or you don’t. There are two sides and little leniency in social conversations. As a result, I find myself steering clear of political conversations unless I know the views of the other person, as I don’t want to find myself defending and battling my view on the world.
We’ve begun defining humans by their political party. News outlets are perpetuating the problem; political headlines are always some version of Democrats vs. Republicans. It’s a difficult conundrum because we’ve been trained to identify others by specific qualities or beliefs but that isn’t all that defines a person. This world of polarization makes it easy to refuse to take responsibility for another party’s actions (#NotMyPresident) and it allows us to easily place the blame and deflect any semblance of responsibility. Identifying humans by their political party makes it easy to group them together as one collective hive mind. It dehumanizes and allows us to view them as less than.
Polarizing politics is a problem. Dehumanization is a problem — and it’s so easy to dehumanize the opponents. President Trump has said Mexicans are rapists and drug dealers, Muslims are terrorists. He’s defining populations of people by a small segment of people and these generalizations don’t even apply to a singular race, ethnicity, or group of people. And it’s not just President Trump doing this, we all do.
We constantly dehumanize the people around us, especially victims (“She was asking for it, look at how she dresses”) or those who don’t have the power to speak. It’s disgusting and awful and this happens in more than just politics. We constantly aim to distance ourselves from decisions and victims and acts of violence. And it’s easy to do, especially given the surge of the internet and social media. Suddenly black victims of police shootings are portrayed as drug addicts or dangerous and the Black Lives Matter protesters are violent and destructive. The media gives us options to distance ourselves from the hard realities.
There needs to be a space where we can have conversations without fighting or name calling or degradation. The only way to make it through this presidency is to listen to those who don’t share the same views. We need to sit down with the person we avoid because we don’t agree with anything they say and talk. It’s a difficult task. But imagine how much easier it will be to expand our views on the world.
The 2016 election was won in a vacuum. For many Democrats the results were surprising but if both parties had sat down and listened to voter needs and desires, the outcome may have been less extreme. According to the Pew Research Center, “Trump’s margin among whites without a college degree is the largest among any candidate in exit polls since 1980.” This is important. There’s a population of ignored Americans that were inspired by President Trump’s rhetoric. We, as a country, need to learn how to reach those who are ignored and marginalized and give them a voice.
In our efforts to dehumanize the competition, the people we don’t understand, and the people we think are less than, we’ve quieted millions of people. We are forcing ourselves into a vacuum of friends who share our views. I am just as guilty; I find myself thinking “those people” a lot and stereotype those who identify Republican. But let’s give each other a voice and someone to listen. We all have worries and concerns. Polarizing politics makes it personal, as it’s hard to have the difficult conversations without feeling wounded or personally attacked. But there comes a time where we need to stop stereotyping people and the time is now. It’s not us versus them. Let’s remember empathy. Feel for each other. Support each other. It sounds impossible but there’s one really important thing we all have in common: we are human.
Let’s agree to make America human again.