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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 13, 2018   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsBreaking it Down

How united should our states be?

In the wake of the 2018 midterm elections, one word has been used frequently to describe the nation: divided. And sure, there’s division in our politics. For the first time in eight years, different political parties control the House and the Senate, creating a unique situation where our representatives will have the choice to compromise or to continue to be in conflict.

However, we’ve watched the sniping between red elephants and blue donkeys become heightened under the current administration, and it’s definitely getting old. Both congressmen and constituents struggle to find common ground, disagreeing over everything from the environment to immigration to taxation, but is this really what we want our America to be? With so many complex issues facing our country right now, the American commitment to parties and polarization has silenced the moderate voices our country needs to hear.

Our headlines, our Congress sessions and our social media feeds are flooded with quick arguments, unfounded claims and inflammatory statements meant to make people choose one side or the other. We have lost the ability to have calm dialogue about changes that need to happen. President Donald Trump is often blamed as the flashpoint for our country’s frustrations but, to be perfectly honest, these factions and fractions have been present since the founding of the United States. While our president could probably stand to fact-check or think through some of the things that come out of his mouth, saying that one person has the ability to unhinge an entire country is both juvenile and unhelpful.

To be clear, there are issues that we cannot afford to be neutral on. Racial injustices, infringements on the freedom of the Fourth Estate and the retraction of the recognition of transgender individuals all require us to advocate for immediate and important action from our government. Words like “gun,” “climate,” “news” and “immigrant” instantly allow others to decide where individuals fall on the political spectrum. We enter into conversations where we’ve already made up our mind about what we believe before we’ve even heard the other side. We’ve turned human rights and liberties into a political debate and, quite frankly, it’s sickening.

When schoolchildren put their hands over their hearts to pledge allegiance to the flag every morning, they are promising to create and uphold the America that adults have fragmented for them. They promise to make our country “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” but if we — as adults, as voters, as representatives — can’t uphold these ideals, how can we expect the next generation to behave any differently?

I don’t have any actionable ideas about how to fix these problems that we all haven’t heard before. We’re college students, and we’ve been taught to have respectful, calm and compassionate dialogue. Adults have been told to coexist and to listen to learn, not to speak. Despite growing up hearing the golden rule and about the importance of caring for other human beings, we are quick to categorize others as lazy, sensitive and a host of other uncomplimentary adjectives. Our current political system and American identity is shaped by caustic comments, closed minds and ignorant assumptions. However, changing our nation starts with changing ourselves and our own approach to dialogue. We have all the tools we need to be a successful and functioning government, country and people; now we have to decide just how united we want our states to be.