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The following was written and submitted by Atlin Johnson, recent graduate from Green River High School.
Sweetwater County is not the most politically diverse location in the United States. That’s obvious to any travelling wayfarer or resident alike. There are pockets of liberal ideology here and there however. Some ones of significance which I personally have noticed is the Speech and Debate community, the educators at the college, and a large part of the local Latin community.
Why some ideologies are more popular within certain demographics is subject to debate, but regardless of cause, they are there nonetheless. That leaves us as citizens with a few options.
We can refuse to cooperate with those who are different from us, which to me seems as a twist on classic xenophobia. We can refrain from talking politics with people different then us. I will agree this is an effective way to get along with and be friendly with others, but it is hardly the kind of political discourse necessary within a democracy.
There are two more notable options, both of which involve communication. The first would be to argue, to bash the other party’s beliefs based on facts and statistics (real or fabricated), demean the leadership, or even the credibility of the individual themselves. This only leads to harming relationships, and it certainly doesn’t succeed in changing anyone’s minds on politics. Unfortunately, this also seems to be the most common mode of discussion about politics.
The last method of political interaction is the most promising. It requires interaction and conversation about controversial issues, particularly between people with opposing beliefs about that issue. A meaningful discussion requires mutual respect, a calm tone of voice, and an even temperament. This is not easy, particularly if you see the other view as foolish, which is quite often the case.
There is an important fact that you need to remember when engaging in these discussions. Everyone developed their political opinions from somewhere. And that “somewhere” is usually reasonable, logical, and able to be sympathized with. The trick is finding that reason and trying to empathize with them. Even if you don’t understand the other person’s opinion, you might be able to understand them as a person.
To the Conservative Majority
For the conservative majority in Sweetwater County, this paragraph is for you. Liberals aren’t all Communist who hate freedom. They aren’t all worshipers of Stalin or Marx or Hillary Clinton for that matter.
Odds are, they are more like you than you think. They have the same goals as you, they want people who work hard to be able to succeed. They want the American Dream to be accessible to those who earn it. They don’t believe the government should have their way with every gun in America.
The next time you get in a political discussion, ask them what their ultimate goal for American society is. It will probably be similar to yours. The only difference is the means they use to obtain that end.
Liberals, you have something to learn too. Conservatives aren’t just anarchists wanting to watch the government crumble, poor people starve in the streets, the rich get richer, and minorities to leave the country and find somewhere else.
Conservative America is not the KKK, so don’t pretend like it is. They aren’t all racist bigots who hate the middle and lower class. They also, as I said before, have the same goals for America that you do.
They want people who are willing to work hard succeed, and they don’t want the fruits of their labors going freely to those who aren’t willing to work hard in life. They want their paycheck to go to feeding their kids, instead of going towards a welfare check spent on heroin in inner cities.
Everyone wants to see America succeed. Everyone wants their kids to have a better life than they did. No one likes seeing homelessness. No one likes seeing poverty. There are just different methods they have to dealing with it.
Stop the Generalizations
Now I can’t speak for everyone. There are some communists out there. There still are KKK rallies. But those can’t be used as generalizations for an entire political ideology. But generally, people are decent, logical beings, with reason behind their opinions.
The person you called a hippie freeloader, maybe their single mother had to have welfare checks to make ends meet for her children.
The conservative you just called a racist, maybe their dad lost their job when his company was outsourced.
You cannot assume that they have their opinions because they are uneducated, or simply deny facts. Sometimes that is the case, but you cannot know for sure.
If we as a society were able to hold reasonable conversations with each other, and actually desire to understand the other point of view, maybe we can spur the political discourse we so desperately need in our country.
The dinner table can be used as much of a mode for political change as the White House or the Senate floor is. We need to stop dismissing the other side. We need to be open in our minds and in our hearts, and willing to listen just as much (if not more) as we are willing to speak.
Then Sweetwater County can show the state and country what we are made of. We can make change, and live in a good society of mutual respect. But please, stop trying to prove people wrong. Instead, try to understand them, and empathize. Focus more on finding the truth, instead of trying to always be right.