There’s a Break Between Us, and We’re Making it Larger



Sierra Wilson, Editor

There’s a clear division between Republicans and Democrats because the idea of “us vs. them” has been ingrained in our minds. It’s become a claim of “if you’re not one of us, you’re one of them.” Why do we hold these beliefs? Why can’t we come together and act cordially?

The answer is simple: civil discourse has been tossed out the window. We no longer worry about the feelings of others, how to engage in amiable dialect, or what our constant clashing is doing to our society. It’s a matter of being louder than the other side, of being heard over them – but are people listening?

The Tennessee Journal of Law and Policy says that many people, regardless of profession, spend more time tearing down “the other side” through false accusations that taint its image rather than building a real argument. They don’t bother gathering the facts. Does it take too long? Is it too much work to provide a rational debate?

Tennessee Journal cites examples of people disregarding civil discourse and focusing on their hatred of “the other side.” A presidential candidate of 2018 said one nation was, “bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists” to our country. A musician attacked the president at one of his concerts with a message displayed on multiple video screens. In a Facebook post about “radicalized Islamic suspect[s],” a Louisiana congressman said we should “[h]unt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all.”

These people all took to the offense, eager to attack “the other side.” There was no evidence to their claims and nothing to back them up, but they said it anyway simply because they could. Even worse, people believed them and agreed with their statements. No one stopped to ask “why?” or “where’s the proof?” It’s too much work to do the extra research, so no one does it.

The fact is words matter. It’s not about tearing down the other side – it never was, yet this is what it has become – it’s about speaking civilly, about arguing the facts and listening to the other side. Everyone wants to be heard, but with so much shouting and noise drowning out their voice, it’s impossible to get a single word out.

David Brooks of The New York Times says that extremists are extreme simply because they aren’t being heard. “They are lonely and sad, their fanaticism emerging from wounded pride, a feeling of not being seen,” he says. They yell to be louder than the cacophony of other people, which in turn makes them look like terrible people, so they are pushed further into the background.

However, when someone takes the time to listen to them and hear their side of things, extremists are immediately brought down a peg: they become rational human beings. Brooks says, “but if we write back to our attackers appreciatively, and offer a way to save face, 90 percent of the time the next email is totally transformed. The brutal mask drops and the human being instantly emerges.”

Clearly, there’s a simple solution to the problem: practice civil discourse. If people just want to be heard, listen to them. Make them realize their opinions matter too, even if it’s one you don’t agree with. With this in mind, however, the opinion should contribute positively to society. If it’s going to tear someone down or offend a group of people, it’s better to keep it to yourself.

There are ways to approach touchy subjects, subjects where there is a clear division between people. Arguments need to be presented logically and morally, backed up by facts and spoken in a respectful manner. Everyone wants to be heard, but there’s no need to shout.

The last thing we need is to be divided. We’re stronger when we work together, so if we push aside our differences and stop focusing on the idea of “us vs. them,” we’ll be that much better as a society and as a country. Crazy, right?