By SUTHESHNA MANI
In the midst of debates, political banter and talks of which candidate we want as president, we once again face a nation politically polarized. The conservatives vs. the liberals, the democrats versus the republicans, the right versus the left. Or as the opposition likes to say, the bleeding heart liberals, establishment puppet conservatives, the whiny democrats and the redneck, racist republicans.
Let’s stop. Please. Just everyone, stop.
When every single issue in this country is constantly viewed through bipartisan lenses, it drowns out any sort of legitimate conversation about issues that affect real, oxygen-breathing, heart-beating, human people. But unfortunately we aren’t looking at how issues affect us as humans, but rather as platforms to preach one’s ideology and way of life as the gospel. It has always been a power struggle. Wanting to aid or help your fellow human beings who may be disadvantaged is not benevolence, but makes you a socialist, welfare-loving handout-giver. And if you’re looking to make some money, you’re a greedy capitalist and a corporate sell-out.
A famous interview between Jon Stewart and Chris Wallace perfectly illustrates this topic as Wallace tries to get Stewart to admit that his comedy show was the “left” counterpart to Fox News and that material on his show abides by some bi-partisan agenda. Stewart, while admitting that he does have his own beliefs and ideologies, rejected the idea that he was any sort of political figure or activist for any political agenda, stating that Wallace could not comprehend media that wasn’t in the form of bi-partisan political activism because “That’s just the soup you swim in,” Stewart remarked.
This is a country where it is possible to become disgustingly rich, and it is what sets us apart from every other country. Any change in that system emasculates our American exceptionalism. Issues aren’t treated as issues that affect all citizens of this country, but issues that concern only one carving of society. Simply: “left issues” and “right issues.” I think if many candidates and regular individuals, even myself, took away the political undertones of these issues we debate endlessly about, we would realize the inhumanity of some things we say.
During the shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent acquittal of Officer Darren Wilson, I read the never ending debates via social media and listened to countless arguments of the entire case. There was a clear divide: some for Wilson, others against. The entire nation heavily debated this ordeal. Echoes of channels exclaiming that it was barbaric, it was racist, he was asking for it, he stole cigarettes, he was aggressive, the officer was doing his job, protestors were race baiting. All this debate and all I could think of was how his parents must be coping with laying their only son into the ground, their son who was about to attend college, while the nation argued about whether several bullets into a young kid’s body was justifiable punishment for stealing from a convenient store. I could not understand why people did not see what I see – the loss of a life, a life I knew nothing about. A life that news cycles did not seem to want to narrate.
I want to give you a quote by Te Nehisi Coates from his book Between the World and Me because it perfectly encapsulates what I am attempting to articulate. Coates explains how this country constantly phrases conversations about race as “race relations,” “racial profiling” and “white privilege,” which “serves to obscure that racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscle, extracts organs cracks bones, breaks teeth.” What I want people to take away from this is to try to understand these topics brought up in the GOP debates, on CNN or Fox or wherever by listening to the people behind them, not the people speaking for them or about them. When people mosey through life with a political placard stamped to their forehead, it hinders any sort of critical thinking or understanding of other human beings or communities. At the end of the day, everyone, no matter what political affiliation or ideology, wants to be heard and understood.
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