A political column analyzing contemporary U.S. culture

Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, many Americans have become so electrified by the results that they are shouting, crying, and fighting … often against their friends, family and neighbors . . . at the cost of listening, learning, and loving. Dialogue is turning into broken friendships. Free speech is starting riots. Marches are taking over the streets. That may be acceptable to the disenfranchised, but when we break long-standing friendships, when citizens call to arms to shoot protesters, have we gone too far?

United we stand. Divided we fall.

Dissension is nothing new to the U.S. We have, in the past, always been divided over something. The suffragists at the Occoquan Workhouse. The Stonewall Riots and the LGBT movement. The Haymarket Riot and the Ludlow massacre aimed at union busting. Or Rodney King and the L.A. Riots. Racism is still prevalent after all the civil rights marches and speeches.

And, dissension is not going away soon, either. According to the 57.9 percent who voted in the last presidential election, America as a whole is split 46.4 Republican and 48.5 Democrat. Douglas County is apparently not as polarized: according to the County Clerk’s voter data, nearly 65 percent of Douglas County voted for the Republican candidate while less than 27 percent voted for the Democratic candidate. However, UCC has been called the most liberal 100 acres

in Douglas County, and if so, students can expect to unwittingly be exposed to or included in uncomfortable or unfamiliar conversations.

Political and social messages, slogans and labels to many are just propaganda; to others, they are their only voice left. We all say we believe in the First Amendment, yet, at times, we find free speech offensive.

Why? Propaganda and semantics are partly at fault. People are uncertain what lies within an issue, so they fall for fake news, alt facts and echo chambers. They fall for the “fallacy fallacy”: the presumption that because a claim is poorly argued, or a fallacy was made, that the claim itself must be wrong.

It is entirely possible to make a claim “I don’t have white privilege” or to cry out “All lives matter” or to dismiss claims with a “Those are just labels.” However, that is not where we really need to end up because it shows we haven’t taken the time to understand the other side.

In a less polarized rural community where people value a simpler life they are familiar with, possibly indoctrinated into, if their values coincide in large masses and that large mass is predisposed to have a semantic reaction that doesn’t coincide with the opposition, is that population wrong for debating from their position, or is everyone else stuck on their own agenda? Who is truly right?

If a person disagrees there is no disparity in gender, does that make them a misogynist or just under-informed?  Is a person a xenophobe because of their interpretation of what the meaning legal is? Is white privilege really only an urban issue, or is Douglas County with its over 90 percent white population part of that experience as well?

Lack of exposure to current political and social issues doesn’t necessarily equate to ignorance. It could be that we are forgetting basic human instinct. If you take something away from someone, they will likely express themselves. Take candy from a child, it will cry. Take a child from their parent, the parent will fight. It is human instinct to protect things. In America, for many, our day is spent protecting political and social values.

Why is this even a discussion? Maybe your exposure to some of these issues is limited, or maybe you’re only focused on your studies, right? Many of us who are graduating will move on to a Uni and can expect to encounter these and other social issues, though. So, when you hear, “White girl, take OFF your hoops!” Or someone asks you to check your white privilege or tells you, “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows,” stop, ask, listen.

Listening to things you disagree with may be hard. Maybe you don’t understand   the way  people express themselves. The least we all can do is take the time to listen to people and their reasons. Then we begin to grow.

If we reach across, it could heal our fractured society. Otherwise, Divided We Fall.