The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Can we all get along?


Finding common ground in political discourse 

I am a Democrat. My best friend is a Republican. Sadly, that is a rarity these days. The number of ‘across-the-aisle alliances’ is exponentially declining, threatening to drift into obsolescence. 

Why is this the case? First, let’s look to our political leaders. Hillary Clinton mused that “you could put half of [President Donald] Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.” President Trump asked why four junior Congresswomen of color don’t “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” A few months ago, Nancy Pelosi tore up President Trump’s State of the Union address on Feb. 4. Days later, President Trump celebrated his acquittal by the Senate in his impeachment trial at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 6, saying: “As everybody knows, my family, our great country, and your President, have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people.” 

If the leaders of our 243 year old republic are not able to contain their hate and resentment for the opposing side, how will the rest of the country’s citizenry do so? 

The problem is not polarization. Polarization is a symptom of a much larger, systemic issue that plagues our society: the absence of dialogue. Recently, America’s civil society has experienced a series of setbacks, embodied by the lack of bowling leagues, social clubs, conversations on train cars and participation in local governance. 

It is this moribund and disintegrating civil society wherein relationships are taboo, conversations are hard to come by, and friendly disagreements have taken the form of Twitter wars and inaccurate Facebook posts.  

My best friend is a fiscal conservative—a dying breed within a diminishing subculture of the Republican party that seeks to reduce the debt, balance the budget, and maintain community and state-based governance. How can I, a Democrat in the year 2020, befriend such a conservative? Because I am not just a Democrat. I am a 19-year old college student at St. Joe’s. I am a resident of the greater Philadelphia area. I am a Catholic who cherishes his Jesuit education. I am a leader of various on-campus organizations. Being a Democrat is not my defining feature or identity. 

Too often, people allow a political party to define who they are, what they can believe and with whom they can interface. 

It truly is an absurd concept. The Democratic and Republican Parties are independent, private organizations that are run by individual committee heads. In reality, parties are not “real” per se. They are contrived private entities. 

I am not here to attack the party system; I am here to confront the idea that we must be confined to the narrow ideological boxes those parties determine. I do not believe in everything which the Democratic party espouses. Nor should I. I am an individual. I am influenced by my family, friends, professors, mentors, religion and conscience. I have allowed institutions of faith, family and community to mold me. 

We all hold our own various identities, experiences and ideals. By recognizing this, we have the ability to empathize. We have the ability to pull from our varied and assorted experiences and memories, to connect with something in ourselves in order to connect with others. 

Parties do not permit empathy. Parties are established in order to do the opposite, in order to establish a divide and to signify a divergence of opinion. However, parties are made up of individuals. Individuals are endowed with an innate desire to connect.

It is this which I have come to understand through my friendship with my fiscally conservative counterpart. We have engaged in hour-long debates in the library. I raised my voice in our apartment about gun control. He shook his head as I ranted about Amazon’s taxes. Yet, we have agreed on the need for stronger community governance, the need to put money and power in the hands of those on the front lines; of those truly living in solidarity with people on the margins. 

The solution to our country’s problems and the way to achieve justice in our society is not Democratic or Republican. Instead, the way of proceeding lies within human interaction. The way forward must be defined by lively debates amongst those who see each other as equals. You can be right-wing, and you can be left-wing. You can be liberal, and you can be conservative. What I am asking is that at the same time, you be yourself first. Be the best version of yourself—the version that engages in dialogue and respects the other interlocutor enough to listen without responding. 

I am asking that we all roll our eyes back in front of our faces and actually engage with what the other person is saying. Judgment from afar and bigotry from behind are deplorable; not people who hold opposing viewpoints. Let us all be better. Let us all be more human together, acknowledging that mistakes will be made. First-draft language will be spoken, and apologies will be issued. I am not calling for compromise or for everyone to be a moderate. I am calling for a common ground in order to work toward a common good.


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