Left vs Right
Liberal vs Conservative
Urban vs Rural
College Educated vs Non-College Educated
Black vs White
Gay vs Straight
Poor vs Rich
Progress vs Tradition
Female vs Male
White Collar vs Blue Collar
I could go on.
The divides have always been there, but there used to be common agreement on certain principles. We could agree to respectfully disagree. Key word, respectfully.
I want to somewhat blame the internet. The internet was a VERY different place in the late 90s and early 2000s. It took effort to be there. Now, most people have internet access via their phones. Heck, even my 95 year old great-uncle is on the internet and Facebook. That does say something.
Even back then, there were stupid quizzes, hoaxes, and chain letters being spread about, but not to the masses so much. But then smartphones and Facebook happened.
It's easy to make an official looking website. We were even warned about how biased, and uninformed bloggers were detrimentally influencing the news, in the late 2000s. But we fell for it anyways. It's so easy to fall for news and stories that confirm our biases.
I, myself, fell for that shit in 2008 and more so in 2012. I liked Facebook pages such as Occupy Democrats, The Other 98%, Addicting Info. My Right leaning friends like pages such as Right Wing News and Freedom Daily. They're ALL a bunch of bullshit.
It was nice in some ways to have anything confirm my own biases and points of view. But eventually, when those pages would only feature someone unknown Tweeter with a sassy Tweet, I started to realize just how bogus these groups are. Tweets shouldn't be news. The headlines are sensational which are meant to only get ad clicks. If you actually read the article, it was mostly bullshit and fluff. At best, it was an editorial piece and not hard facts. A few months ago, I went ahead and "unliked" any groups like that. It was just becoming too much. I wish more people did this.
In their place, I've been trying to read better journalism - NPR, The Atlantic, New York Times, Washington Post. While, I'd say these news sources do skew liberal, at least they're not as sensational. Their articles are more fact driven.
Unfortunately, I think that the internet has also decreased our attention spans. If something can't be summed up in 140 characters or a bogus infographic or meme, we're not interested. We don't bother to read lengthy, thought provoking articles filled with political nuance. If we did, we'd understand that not everything is so binary. But the binary is far more readily understood and easier to process.
I've been told by several Conservatives that I'm one of the "good" Democrats they know. WTF? It's usually because I can debate with them intellectually and respectfully about politics. Although, it makes me wonder what kind of Democrats they are exposed to? The Democrats I tend to associate with, are intelligent and we often can debate about politics in an informed way. We don't just shout Liberal think statements at each other.
Echo chambers are a real thing. And they're even easier to fall into. I'll be honest, my social group easily skews towards the white, college-educated, city-dweller demographic. Many are Liberal and we agree on a lot of things. Even this past Election Year, I didn't unfriend / unfollow anyone on Facebook. I didn't post anything telling people to unfriend me if they're racist / sexist / whatever-ist. Quite frankly, the way I see it, is it's your Facebook. Post / comment whatever you want. If you're an asshole about it or harassing me, that's different. We're all entitled to our opinions. To me, opinions are like assholes, we all have one.
Quite frankly, I do think it's a good thing that I am exposed to those that are of differing opinion and background.
However, one of the issues is that I think the internet has killed our ability to debate. Hiding behind a computer or phone screen, allows us to be more brazen. We feel OK to call people names and be rude. There is less consequence if you're being a rude, asshole.
Several months ago, one of my Conservative neighbors wanted to know why his Liberal friends were voting for Hillary. I spent a good 10 minutes, typing up a thoughtful and intelligent reply. I'm all about respectful debate. The response I got from my neighbor's Conservative friends - "Libtard". Seriously, the best you have is to call me an awful name, which adds NOTHING to the conversation.
But I've seen too many internet conversations go this way. And us Liberals are just as bad. While we might not call Conservatives silly names, we will tell them that they're racist, a bigot, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, pretty much any -ist or -ic. The thing is, even if these things are true about said Conservative, it sadly does little to further the conversation.
I know good people that do think these horrible things. They may think that the gays shouldn't be allowed to marry. But dammit, if there's someone in need, they're right there giving the shirt off of their back. It's confusing. But calling them homophobic and stopping the conversation right there, doesn't help. It makes us all retreat back to our bubbles and echo chambers where it's safe.
Personally, I like being offended. Maybe, that's why I like the music of GG Allin. Being offended means, we're allowed to think differently. The thing is, I don't want my government and its laws to be offensive. Our government should help protect everyone, regardless of race, creed, sex, orientation, or anything.
I try to put my personal beliefs to the side. I try to go off of the cold, hard facts of the situation. I can't let my emotions or biases prevail. One thing I've been trying to do, is address my biases. For example, Trump is doing some horrid shit. However, I try to reframe it by thinking, if this was Hillary doing the same horrid shit, would I be as pissed off. For the most part, yes, Trump is doing some horrid shit. But by thinking in such a way, I'm able to check my biases more. We should all be doing this. The hypocrisy of both the Left and Right, is unreal.
We all need to do better to check our biases.