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  • Writer's pictureMadeline Kim

America needs dialogue, not more polarization

Updated: May 11, 2022

Hyperpartisanship continues to be a trend in American politics. Political discussion among people of opposite ends of the political spectrum usually leads to both sides "triggering" the other, or at the very least, spewing insults such as "snowflake" or "deplorable." Of course, politics has never been a smooth-sailing conversation topic. The saying "never discuss politics in polite company" often holds true in most social situations and has held true for longer than the current hostile political climate has. However, there is one disturbing trend that appears to be prevalent more than ever that both sides are guilty of: using tragedies to back a political agenda.

Many people claim that Republicans, collectively, jump at any terrorist attack to push for extreme vetting. President Donald Trump called for extreme vetting in response to the New York terrorist attack. He called for H.R. 3004, Kate's Law, and used the death of Kathryn Stenile to " revise provisions relating to the reentry of removed aliens". Since then, Jim Steinle, father of Kate Steinle, has demanded that his daughter's name is taken out of the law and expressed that he finds the usage of his daughter's death to be revolting and not "honor[ing] her memory."

Democrats are guilty of politicizing tragedies as well. When there's a mass shooting, left-leaning reporters have been seen showing little to no respect for the victims or the incident. The infamous Hayley Geftman-Gold, former vice president and senior legal counsel at CBS in New York, stated that the victims of the Vegas shooting were "Republican gun-toters" who deserved "no sympathy." Additionally, the left has been criticized for being "disrespectful to the dead" by using mass shootings as evidence for the need for stronger gun laws.

Now, I would like to make clear that there is a distinction between creating pragmatic solutions in light of tragic events and politicizing tragedies. One calls for dialogue to evaluate the causes of the problem at hand and prevent them in the future. The other creates demonization, leading to both sides becoming even more polarized and unwilling to listen. This line, although important, is often blurred.

The goal of having a democratic republic, as is the case in the U.S., is to have both ends of the political spectrum covered so that one party does not rule the entire country and turn it into a single-party state. By combining aspects of a republic and a democracy, we strive to create a sovereign state where the people can vote for representatives who can represent a common vision. A system that should allow both sides to hold the other accountable and create a balanced society is now a society where dialogue is getting harder and clouded by emotion.

So where do we go from here? The solution is convoluted. Both sides' optimal strategy appears to be to remain defensive in order to protect themselves from each other. If one party appears to be viciously attacking the fundamentals of another, the best strategy appears to be to fight back with an equally vicious defense. Left-leaning media outlets criticize the Republican party; the right, in response, cries out "fake news!" Conversely, the current Republican-majority house takes over the nation; consequently, the left gets defensive and demands that Trump leaves office. Not fighting back makes one feel vulnerable, but further adding to the divisive climate only repels us further away.

One step that we can take is to separate the events from our emotions. Sensationalism appeals to strong emotions such as outrage, and it is easy to fall into that trap. Currently, outlets have been acting more like gossip sites than accredited sources for the latest news. The days leading up to the U.S. 2016 presidential election, left-leaning media entertained Trump by putting great emphasis on his outlandish behavior and outrageous tweets. Conversely, right-leaning media constantly reminded the nation about Clinton's e-mail scandal and the controversy surrounding her husband. By putting gossip over actual truth-telling, we have grown to resent each other even more. Instead of holding debates on handling gun violence and immigration policy, we combined the person with the person's respective political beliefs. We conflated a person's political affiliation to the value of the person as a whole: Republicans are gun-obsessed racists, Democrats are whining "snowflakes."

Putting less emphasis on pathos and shifting it towards logos is easier said than done. When there is diversity in thought, conflict is inevitable, thus making a society in which the people can all agree on a common vision is near impossible, if not completely. However, the hostile political climate is not sustainable. A nation that has such division between parties cannot hold productive discussions that will lead to solutions. By calling each other names and dismissing the news that contradicts our paradigm as "fake news," we are straying further from the possibility of reaching compromise.

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