Maine is a swing state; this means I live in a “swing” city and go to a “swing” school. My classmates come from rural and urban areas, and the sociopolitical views held and expressed range widely on every spectrum. This is a trait I believe necessary for the continuation of human social evolution. Like the necessity of biodiversity and mutations in science, differing opinions, philosophies, and ways of thinking are the driving force of our progression as a society and race.
However, when it comes to expressing our views, the tendencies we have tend to follow two trends: either points of views go unheard as conversations are hindered, or discussions lean more towards arguments with two iron-willed sides. These are both issues that threaten to obstruct any potential for meaningful conversations that are necessary for our growth and seem to create a toxic and divisive atmosphere for youth.
The divisive culture that has formed in our state and country has been on my mind for awhile, but the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida, made it clear to me that the art of conversation and diplomacy has been lost in our culture.
Planning of my high school’s participation in the National School Walkout on March 14 created tension among not only my peers, but also my close friends.
Across internet platforms and hallways I have heard people raving about the “Republicans” in their grades that have denounced them for participating in protests or for supporting stricter gun legislation. Similarly, I have overheard others steaming because “Democrats” in their class have berated them for their opinions and want to take their guns away.
The lack of empathy, when it comes to this topic, has turned every effort for discussion into a toxic and unproductive feat.
In truth, both parties do not comprehend each other. The discussions they have are pointless because they do not lead to understanding, diplomacy, or compassion. That being said, the effect of discussions held by teenagers is not their own fault. The polarization of politics comes from lack of fact-based education on government and civics, socialization, and lack of practice in independent thinking.
How is our generation supposed to help evolve the human race if we only think what our parents have taught us to think?
Socialization seems to have become a polarizing form of indoctrination. The practice of meaningful, productive, and educated conversation must become a priority in our educations. An emphasis on educating over civics and governmental process must happen if educated voting that results in a diplomatic republic is to be maintained and improved on. Our efforts should be aimed at attentive listening and learning to view each perspective of a discussion before reacting or even forming an opinion.
The atmosphere in our state and country has been polarized for quite some time now; some blame the two-party system, some radical thinkers, and others believe politics in general has gone rotten. Yet, the new movement following the Parkland shooting has given me hope.
Groups of teenagers around the country have united under a cause while emphasizing education through exposing fact-based evidence on their points. They have said time and time again that their cause is not a party issue and have included representatives of both parties in their gatherings and debates. Along with this, they have made an effort to hold discussions and forced people to pay attention and listen. They have given youth a voice and a legitimate political platform. They have done the most democratic thing they could as constituents; they have made their representatives and governing officials hear them and take action.
Polarization is an issue that has to be dealt with. People of every generation have been affected by the divisive culture that has brewed and formed in the last few years. Our saving grace is the people who are not only aware of the damage and lack of productivity this division has formed, but the people who act on their awareness. The way we have discussions and approach subjects must take on a nonaggressive and open form that leaves no room for defensiveness. The opening up of the gun debate by youth is only the beginning of a larger movement to depolarize politics in order to candidly get things done.
Andrea Grossmann is a contributing writer for Raise Your Voice. She is a student at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor.