It only takes two to bring a nation to a standstill
Hello. I’m here to address the elephant in the room. And the donkey in the room. Colored red and blue, respectively, they are pitted against each other on a daily basis, their battle tearing across the lives of normal citizens, government policies, and the web. America has two political parties, Democrats and Republicans, who are responsible for one of America’s biggest flaws: its dysfunctional government. If people hate each other on principle, then compromise and progress cannot happen. If there are only two opinions to choose from, those who don’t choose a mainstream point aren’t represented, and those who do lose perspective and have their independent thought suppressed. And when there are only two political parties in power, competition between them leads to slander and libel, the enemies of free thought.
It is no great secret that people of one of America’s two major political affiliations have taught themselves to dislike the people and idealism of the other side. No doubt the media plays a part in this, as does the internet. People who are otherwise normal in every other way are exposed to only opinions that they can agree with, due to there being separate channels for liberal and conservative news, and the internet’s relevancy filters, which block out opinions contrary to what you believe. When you do come into contact with an idea that isn’t in line with their beliefs, they lash out or curl up and hide, unwilling to even take the idea seriously.
And that’s no different from what our elected officials are grew up with and are exposed to, because it’s just part of American culture. This is an why our president fights an uphill battle to pass anything, why it takes so long to enact anything that one party endorses in general, and even why our government shut down in 2013. The competition has grown fierce, as Elephant and Donkey are goaded into attacking each other over and over, accomplishing nothing but making themselves more angry. At this point, no one really knows whether there can be progress without going through vast stretches of strife.
In America, there are two sides. Everything that we’re taught is that there are two sides, in war, in debate, and in politics. And if there are more points of view, then it’s dumbed down until there aren’t. Every time you see a debate on TV, there are always two sides, point A versus point B, and they never manage to resolve the debate. This is a cultural trend with some unintended consequences.
In seventh grade, I had a very interesting conversation with a libertarian who outlined the ideas of libertarianism. Before then, I had never heard of them, and after, I found myself thinking: I disagreed with him about some things, but some of his ideas are pretty good. “Why aren’t libertarians in more elected positions of office”? My gut response was to think “well, because he’s wrong,” but I thought some more and figured out that wedge issues don’t really support more than two points of view. The way our media fixates on issues that specifically support only two points of view, and specifically the republican party and the democrat party’s points of view, is what keeps out other parties out of office. This is what’s keeping other, smaller parties out of the white house; because they either take one of the “main” sides of the wedge issue and are assimilated into whichever party, Democrat or Republican, takes that side by the process of oversimplification, or the non-mainstream party can choose to not take a stance or take a third stance and get no media coverage and publicity as a result.
If politics (in almost any case) have shown us one thing, it’s that lying about people is a viable way to gain power. Slander is a popular way to undermine the opposition’s support, and has been a legitimate political tactic since before Rome fell. But this doesn’t make it a productive democratic process. Imagine that you’re running for president, and overnight you lose half of your support because the opposition latched on to something you said in your last speech, and used that quote along with a few other quotes out of context to basically say that you’re incompetent, apathetic, insensitive, or all of the above. A few rumors and twitter posts later, you’re out of the presidential race. A similar thing happened to Al Gore in his 2000 run for president. He made the mistake of saying that he “took the initiative in creating the Internet.” Soon after, media organizations took the quote out of context, combined said quote with some even more out of context information, and presto! Everyone thinks Al Gore thinks he invented the internet, instead of him throwing money at the people making the 21st century internet as we know it a public service. That was one of the many factors that led to him losing, and it’s a prime example of the media jumping on any weakness they see like a swarm of ambulatory piranhas. This doesn’t sound like democracy in process, does it?
I believe that America could, if it tried, improve the world. As is, many attempts to do so have been failures. However, if we can fix our politics and figure out how to work together, then the world could possibly be a better place for it. What this nation needs to do is put the pettiness aside and focus on real issues like global poverty, climate change, and population growth. But to do that we need to work together, because not one of us can do anything about our politics alone. I’m not asking you to “vote for x party,” or something along those lines, I’m asking you to try and be aware, to notice things like this as they happen. All America needs is one generation of mindful people, and we can start fixing other people’s problems instead of causing problems for ourselves.