Caleb’s Conception: Americans must stop attacking each other

Caleb Bolin 
Political Columnist

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Days after the 2016 election cycle, I urged people, no matter whom they supported in the various campaigns to continue fighting for what they believed in.

Even before Donald Trump’s inauguration, people began protesting against him and the things he said on the campaign trail. After his inauguration, protests became even more frequent– and even more extreme.

Protests like the Women’s March on Jan. 9, and other similar protests around the country and world saw millions of people stand up for what they believe in; it was awe-inspiring to see.

Now, as protests continue, I am going to offer a helpful bit of advice to those who are out there fighting for whichever causes they care about: know whom/what you are protesting and keep your focus on that one person or that issue. Do not take your eye off the metaphorical ball.

To protest the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood, the border wall or the immigration ban demonstrates poise and thoughtfulness. Even protesting someone who uses hate speech is powerful. This kind of protest is productive.

On the other hand, “protesting” and attacking people who voted for one candidate or the other serves to do nothing other than deepen division and alienate anyone who disagrees with anyone else. This form of “protest,” as some people call it, is not productive, but it is sadly becoming increasingly more common.

As a teenager in the golden age of technology, I see posts everyday that are, as we millennials would call them, extra, heated and straight up petty.

Liberal thinkers commonly generalize all Republicans as racists, misogynists and xenophobes. Conservatives generalize Democrats as crybabies and whiners, denounce feminism as cancer and argue that anyone who identifies as anything other than the two cis genders is seeking attention or is just plain dumb. Both sides go out of their way to pick fights with each other, both on and off of social media.

Pro-life protesters stand next to a separate group of people protesting a proposal to defund Planned Parenthood on Feb. 11, outside of the St. Louis Planned Parenthood. Photo by Ashli Wagner

Pro-life protesters stand next to a separate group of people protesting a proposal to defund Planned Parenthood on Feb. 11, outside of the St. Louis Planned Parenthood. Photo by Ashli Wagner

When we label everyone whose views do not align with our own as wrong or stupid, we lose our ability to compromise, and we start talking without speaking to each other and hearing things without listening to each other–like some sort of sick, twisted Simon and Garfunkel “Sounds of Silence” parody.

A refusal to speak/listen to each other tends to breed increasingly more extreme viewpoints and leads to gridlock, which then leads to further extremity and general discontentment with the political system.

Congress has an approval rating of less than 20 percent according to the Gallup poll. Forty percent of Americans approve of President Trump. Friendships and relationships are on the rocks. Social media is filled with posts and comments claiming everyone is a racist or a sexist or that feminists are unintelligent.

The solution to all of these problems is simple: stop “protesting” other people’s opinions–it is their right to have them. Instead, protest legislation, the words of elected officials or other things that are specific.

Name-calling and generalizing millions of people cannot change anything for the better, but listening to each other and having a willingness to try and understand where other people are coming from can do so.

The choice is ours.


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