Our polarized society must come together

By Thunderworld Staff

America seems divided, and it does not seem like anyone is willing to compromise. Whether you are scrolling through social media or talking to someone on the street, it seems like everyone has their point of view and they are not willing to look at a different point of view.

Politicians even argue who is causing all of this. Republicans say that Democrats are obstructing work, while Democrats say that President Trump is inept.

Highline professor Dr. Ben Gonzalez thinks that the blame cannot be placed all on Trump.

Gonzalez said that America was "divided before him and it'll be divided after him."

The political science professor thinks that this problem really began during President Obama's time in office when Republicans wanted to obstruct him "as much as possible" and cast him as more extreme than he was. While Gonzalez thinks that Obama's skin played a role, there is a simpler reason for it.

"This was also a product of party politics," Gonzalez said.

But Gonzalez said there's a debate over who is polarized, whether it is the voters or simply the parties.

"It isn't terribly clear if it's the public or the parties that are polarizing," he said.

But one benefit of politics during these days are that people are paying closer attention to the news.

Gonzalez also said that he thinks that his classes overall are more knowledgeable on current events, and that his classes are not as polarized as they were at other schools he has taught at. While there were some heated exchanges after Trump was elected, he said that that seems to "have settled down."

One of the causes of this has been social media. Gonzalez said that there are simply "too many unsubstantiated claims that people take at face value."

"People are increasingly limiting their social media circles to those with like views, which increases polarization," Gonzalez said.

Another problem with social media is that it is a lot easier to argue over the internet with people that you don't know in real life.

"There is a tendency to be more extreme versions of ourselves when we're not sitting across from someone," he said.

But one thing that doesn't seem to influence political views is celebrity endorsements. Kanye West caused an uproar last week when he tweeted a picture of himself wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat, and later released a song talking about why he supports Trump.

Gonzalez said that "I doubt many Trump supporters care about Kanye's tweets or the fact that an old T.V. show [Roseanne] is back on the air."

People have heard the solutions to these issues a million times: listen to what people have to say and go to more than one news source.

But here's the thing: Rather than just saying we should do it, people need to actually start doing it. When you have a conversation with someone with an opposing point of view, actually listen. Even if you do not agree with what they are saying, you will have a better understanding of why they think what they think.

"Most people simply don't have enough information to really understand the issues because we don't teach them that having this information is important," Gonzalez said.

When you read something that doesn't seem to be accurate, do some more research and see if it accurate. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

But Gonzalez said the simplest thing people can do is get educated on American politics.

Do not argue about topics that you do not know that much about. It's OK to say that you do know enough to have an opinion on something.

"More education will let people navigate the media and political environments with greater ease," Gonzalez said.

One thing that is for sure is that we need to get to a point in society where everyone feels that they can participate.

Mitchell Roland is the opinion editor of the Thunderword.


Send submissions to the opinions page to thunderword@highline.edu.  Letters and guest commentary pieces are welcome.  Deadline is Monday of each week.

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