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“I don’t talk about politics.”
I hear it in my classes, in my house and throughout campus. The lack of much needed discourse was a factor in allowing the boats of the candidates to rise with a high tide of ignorance. What were once fringe views on immigration, climate change and trade have made their way into the mainstream. While here on campus these views (and the candidates who peddle them) have not garnered much support, there still should be quality spoken communication or debate — discourse.
While photographing three vice presidential debate watching events for the CU Independent, I saw the lack of discourse and broken stereotypes of our divided nation. With untouched burger buns on the gluten-free Trump supporters plate, he lectured me on the objective truth of our theorized computer-simulated reality, and a staunch environmentalist broke the mold. These people were much more than just monolithic Trump supporters— something I saw under-appreciated in the Hillary and Democratic headquarters. But I also heard from people at the pro-Trump event exhibiting glaring errors that need correction through discourse, from the notion of Trump’s supposed business success qualifying him to be president, to Hillary’s email misuse disqualifying her from the office, to a preposterous rumor that Hillary will be renting out the oval office for Bill’s nightly use.
Politics are a complicated, temper-poking battleground that has become an increasingly polarizing topic. Yet it is a necessity to discuss politics, because without discourse there is only recourse. A possible Trump presidency or (and possible ensuing Trump impeachment) would be much more of a firestorm than a chat with your neighbor.
On campus the lack of discourse I have seen and been a part of is troubling not for its outcome, but for the lack of process. Tackling the complexity of an issue beyond regurgitating sound bites from the news enriches the quality of our ideas and calls into question why they are held. Equally, discourse humanizes the ideologies of others and brings attention to their perspectives. I have discussed 17th century etchings, ancient Persian literature and worst of all, Thursday night frat parties. But in a year where a pivotal change in our culture, economy and school funding is a very real possibility, the line, “I don’t talk about politics,” has become the knee-jerk reaction.
Being a Liberal means nothing if you do not know what conservatism is, and vice versa. Blindly following the hand-me-down ideologies from our parents and peers hinders much needed progress of thought. The university experience is a time to learn about ourselves, and question what we find.
Talking with those who do not share your values is one of the best ways to question your own. Looking into another human’s eyes, listening to their stories and understanding their perspective can only enhance one’s own experience, and will most likely show the need for political discourse.
When discourse does take place, it should be quality. Talking is not proselytizing. It is the humanizing process of exchanging ideas in a context of mutual respect. In the political arena, talking requires listening. Sharing a quasi-news source’s 90-second video to friends does not allow for real conversation. The physical act of talking creates a more respectful back and forth where those with similar views can ask why they all hold those views, and better yet, ask why others do not.
People at the Trump VP debate party carried anger and fear with them. A fear of an America that has left the idealistic story of white picket fences and blue collar nuclear families. A departure they believe has been made at the hands of groups Trump has scapegoated and pigeonholed into the same type of single story they are subject to. Media, immigrants, young people and Trump supporters themselves are talked about in dangerously simple terms. Yet this fear is rooted in the same feelings every Hillary, Bernie, Jill Stein and Johnson supporter holds: the common desire for a better America.
Where the cleavage begins is in the same place the discourse stops. Not only the discourse on our campus, but the discourse in the media and in the political system itself. We are more than just Trump, Hillary or Bernie supporters. We are people sharing the same hopes for a better life and nation whether it is with the slogan of making America great again, standing with her or through a political revolution.
On campus is where we can begin this needed discourse. Questioning the typical and easy reasons to vote for Hillary or Trump is a needed practice. Following the herd without exploring one’s own reasons to support a candidate denies the nuance of politics. Suspending words such as “wrong” and “right” from a political vocabulary does not mean you have to think that a presidential candidate calling women pigs is right. But doing so allows the required discourse over how people can still support the man who made those comments. Discourse asks the needed questions that simple and quick judgments (even if they are correct) miss.
The fabric of America is woven with and by the people who live in it. People who come from all corners of the world yet share common desires to build better lives for them and those who will come after them. Respectful discourse recognizes this and breaks down the walls that have been built throughout the political map of our country, walls that pose threats just as walls surrounding our country do. This discourse can start with picking up a newspaper that you do not read, switching the news to a different channel or listening to a different radio station. Information begins discourse, discourse begins change and change is very much needed in our nation. Campus should be a place for this change to begin. Have it begin at dinner with friends, in classes and at the other party’s debate events.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Writer Jackson Barnett at email@example.com.