In the last few weeks, a handful of candidates have announced their candidacy for president of the United States. Big names have included Rand Paul and Ted Cruz for the Republicans and Hillary Clinton for the Democrats. If nothing else, there is one thing that is certain: Politicians are going to brutally attack each other in the most vicious ways.
This tendency to hate the opposition is something that has spawned fairly recently — in the last 25 years or so. The game of politics has been heated for as long as politics has existed, but what we have encountered recently, in the United States, is something new. There is much debate about which party was truly responsible for the problem of disagreement, but that question is largely irrelevant, as both parties have eagerly adopted the attitude. To observers, it is difficult to see whether the Democrats are for Democratic policies, or merely against Republican ones and the inverse is equally true.
The issue, however, does not lie solely with career politicians. Average American citizens are just as responsible for the problem. The issue is that many people get completely wrapped up in political stances, to the point where they become a major part of their identity. Opinions on issues such as same-sex marriage or abortion are held so closely that it can be nearly impossible to overlook it if other people disagree. That is not to say that these issues are not important, because they are. Rather, it is disheartening when someone judges my value as a person based on the stances I take. There exist people in the world who would dislike me based entirely on how I feel about President Barack Obama.
I could be the nicest, most sympathetic, compassionate person to ever live, and to some people, on both sides of the aisle, that would not matter because I love or hate the current president. If you find yourself disagreeing with someone about important issues, remember that disagreement is acceptable. Disagreement on important issues is inevitable, and it can often be healthy. Disagreement forces us to defend our views and think about why we believe what we believe. The most important thing is to at least try to understand where the other side is coming from, even if you vehemently disagree.
Most people who are pro-choice do not believe it is okay to kill babies. Likewise, most people who are pro-life do not hold that stance because they hate women. Very few issues in American politics are as one-sided as most people make them out to be. So then, as we ready ourselves for another presidential election, please keep an open mind. It is probably impossible to eliminate the rampant negativity in our politics today, but we can control how we act, and how we interact with other people, even those whom we disagree with. After all, at the end of the day, we are all Americans.