America has become so polarized in these last few years that it has been dubbed “The Fractured States of America” by CNN journalist Yaffa Fredrick. This phrase shows just how much the land of the free is at war with itself in regard to both the government and its citizens. Not only do we feel a divide between those who do not agree with us, but we feel paranoid that our coworkers, friends and family members may treat us differently because of our opinions. Politics are not a source of power or an exercise of freedom anymore, and instead of bringing us closer together, they tear us apart. The only way that the American people feel united right now is through the anxiety that they are feeling about the upcoming election, and the future of their country.
Fredrick places blame on regular American people for this state of fear, and she urges us to engage in more vulnerable and uncomfortable political conversations. She believes that it is more productive to let people express their opinions and to approach them respectfully.
While it is respectable to come into any conversation with an open mind, there is one component of this argument that Fredrick fails to consider. Using politics to limit the rights of certain groups of people should not be a conversation that we enter with an open mind. For example, a person in the LGBTQ+ community should not feel obligated to tolerate and respect the opinion of someone who actively opposes giving them basic human rights. Oppression from the government is a real threat to minority groups, and Fredrick unfairly implies that it is up to those groups to heal the American divide by respecting their oppressors.
Healing America’s fracture is not as simple as listening to the opposing side. While it is important to debate about economic issues, healthcare and even the usage of marijuana, regular American citizens should not need to put themselves in a situation in which someone disrespects their existence with the excuse that it is ‘just an opinion.’ The mixing of politics with human rights has made having uncomfortable conversations a lot more difficult for the people who are directly affected by these issues.
More shocking, though, is the fact that, according to The New York Times, more than half of Americans reported having a mix of political views, and don’t totally agree nor disagree with any party. Americans are not as politically engaged as it seems; we’re all just scared. With increasing amounts of hostility between politicians though, we think that their views and actions reflect the opposing side, or even just generally politically engaged people. Even if we do have uncomfortable conversations like Fredrick urges us to have, they may not even lead anywhere.
As well as this, people are genuinely stressed out by politics. During the past few months, social media has become more political than ever, but as the Pew Research Center reports, it has been making users “worn out” instead of more informed. Talking about politics on social media has been described as “stressful and frustrating,” showing that, despite the willingness of people to have those uncomfortable conversations, not everyone else is willing to listen. Average American citizens have been doing their best, but the government has been providing a bad example.
In 2019, a study conducted by Pew Research Center found that Americans believed that Donald Trump was changing the nature of politics and debate “for the worse” and politicians’ rhetoric could increase the threat of violence against certain groups of people. This study reports that there is also a widespread view that politicians’ rhetoric has generally worsened. This can be shown through the debates this year which have been filled with constant interruptions, petty side glances and off-topic ramblings. The debates were described by CNN’s Jack Topper as a “hot mess inside a dumpster fire.” If this continues, America is going to be the laughing stock of the rest of the world, if it isn’t already. Not only are we going to feel attacked by the politicians who are meant to be serving us, but we will be attacked by everyone else in our lives.
The cause of the great divide in the United States is politicians, not us. This has notably happened before, during the years 1861 to 1865, otherwise known as the Civil War. The Civil War was a result of America’s politicians becoming so polarized that politicians from the south tried to secede. In every high school history class I have taken, it was taught that the Civil War was fought over “states’ rights,” and that debate is one that still exists today. It is not the fault of the average American, though, but of generational political discourse.
If politicians stay divided, America will eventually collapse into another Civil War. Have we not learned anything from our history? It is evident that political arguments are the reason for this divide in our country, and no matter who you vote for, the government will still be a source of anxiety and danger for American citizens.