Today we inaugurate the 45th president of the United States.
The fact that the previous simple sentence just sent half of the readership into a frothy rage illustrates that we’re living in weird times.
I’ve been gone from the opinion desk at The Statesman for a semester, so I’ve yet to weigh in on… whatever just happened.
But I’m not going to talk about Trump today. Enough digital ink has been spilled on his behalf.
I’m going to talk about us.
Things aren’t great. We’re a bit divided as a country and if you weren’t aware of that, I’ll let the New York Times, Reuters, Associated Press, The Economist and Politico remind you. It doesn’t look good.
So how do we fix this irreparable divide? Well, maybe we could start by realizing that we were never that divided to begin with.
I was there when Rand Paul came to UMD and I saw all of the people that turned out to support him. I was there at the Bernie Sanders rally at the DECC and I saw all of the people that turned out to support him. I was there at the Trump rally in Superior and I saw all of the people that turned out to support him.
What did all of those people have in common? They were just people.
We’ve become so entrenched in our political tribalism that we’ve neglected the fact that just because a few people are loud it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the majority.
It’s easy to get lost in the exaggerated rhetoric and look at the other side as monsters. It’s easy to think that liberals are nothing but godless heathens who want to perform abortions with a copy of Origin of Species, or that conservatives want nothing but to put a Bible and handgun in the crib of every newborn, all while hating Mexicans.
The reality, however, is that that isn’t really America. It turns out that by and large, most Americans are actually normal, reasonable people.
In a poll conducted by NBC New and Esquire in 2013, they found that the majority of American’s don’t fall right or left, but rather somewhere in the middle.
As Esquire senior editor Richard Dorman pointed out afterwards, “The middle isn’t defined by a lack of intensity, or let’s split the difference between left and right, they have very passionate positions on a lot of things, they just don’t conform to the contours of traditional liberalism, tradition conservatism.”
Or to put it more simply, they found exactly the kind of nuance you’d expect from a nation of 300 million people who just want to live their lives. That study is now four years old, so what went wrong since then?
The answer to America’s division is more than likely the fact that that’s the only way things can exist in the two-party world we’ve built. Want less government regulation? Congratulations, you hate homosexuals. Believe in climate change? You also love abortions. You can mix and match whatever hot button issue you want, the result will always be the same.
We just got out of an election where more people voted for a candidate simply because they hated the other one more. None of this is healthy.
We must remember we’re all in this together and we’re all going to get through this. I’ve sent messages to almost every political and social group on campus encouraging them to talk—and I sincerely hope they do because we’re not that different from one another and most of us don’t realize that.
I’m here, as the opinion editor, to facilitate that.
Our generation doesn’t have a choice but to live in the world we were given—but that doesn’t mean we can’t build a better one.
Thumbnail Photo by Steven Seiller/Flicker