Approach discourse to empathize, learn


I wanted to take some time to reflect on the insightful words of Mr. Dillow and Mr. Gilyard at the past couple assemblies.

Let me first preface this with a disclaimer: I most certainly don’t know everything nor do I claim to know much at all. I am simply stating what I believe and hoping it is constructive and interesting.

We are indisputably and profoundly divided: politically, socially, and personally. We tend to align ourselves with those who think similarly or share our values. We create teams. These “teams” — Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian — otherize people. These labels set up inherently oppositional relationships, thereby inciting conflict.

I cannot provide such an obtusely idealistic solution as “we’re all on one team because we’re all human and that fundamental similarity binds us all together” because it is a vast oversimplification. Failure to recognize our differences leads to a lack of understanding and empathy, which then leads us to the state of vitriolic division that we are all acutely aware of.  So if systemic social categorization is inexorable, it seems pointless to search for a way to bridge the gap.

However, society can’t function if it is split in half. There is hope. Hope in the form of Jared Polis, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, and Jahana Hayes.

What is the cure for this disunity? It’s difficult to say, especially because the proposed causes are so varied and vague — nationalism, social media, geography — and the symptoms are numerous. However, I contend that education is the solution. I believe the principal reason we are so radically adversarial is that we don’t understand codes differing from our own.

We always assume the “other side” is blind, that they can’t see the truth. Really, truth doesn’t belong to anyone. Going into an argument with the intention of proving you’re right and the other person is wrong will inevitably lead to failure. Our mindset must be one of growth. We must approach discussion with the intention of learning, casting ego aside. Productivity and progress stem from empathy, the ability to step into someone else’s shoes.

In the spirit of understanding and logical analysis, there is value in understanding the true underlying morality of liberal and conservative ideologies instead of relying on broad strokes political stereotypes or even specific policy disputes.

American politics aren’t governed by a written Constitution so much as a collective moral constitution.

Liberalism and conservatism are ethical ideologies based on caring, equality and authority. Liberals value fairness and openness more, embracing change and unfamiliar experiences more readily.

Conservatives tend to value authority and tradition more, welcoming stability and familiar experiences, emphasizing how essential social order is. I would urge you to watch Jonathan Haidt’s TED Talk on moral psychology in politics for a more comprehensive and eloquent breakdown.

We shouldn’t be divided along party lines because each ideology has something valuable to offer. We should stand united — better for our differences — against those who seek to undermine morality, those who suppress truth and those who oppress others.

As long as you believe in something, you possess power; selfish individuals in positions of authority can’t take that truth from you.It is incredibly easy to be apathetic, especially afforded the privilege of relative immunity from the decisions of those in power.

It is crucial not to let indifference overcome compassion, as Mr. Dillow remarked.

We must be open to others. We must be open to growth. Don’t be indifferent. Be different. Think for yourself. Listen to others with an open mind. Be open to change.