WYNEN: Students should embrace those with different opinions
Opinions Column: Reality Check
It was clear from the get-go that the 2016 Presidential election would be a divisive one. Dehumanization of each side by each side has been getting exponentially worse since the end of World War II. Despite just fighting a war against Nazism, Truman casually flung the fascist label at his opponent, Thomas Dewey, who was anything but. Since then, the mudslinging has gotten progressively worse and reached new heights over the past year. Political discourse in the United States has become nothing more than ad hominem attacks and straw man arguments, enabled and exacerbated by a populous that feeds off the conflict.
Large segments of the American population despise and distrust those who have differing political views. Some areas of America are undoubtedly still living in the 1970s, having fallen behind as development and migration have largely been focused on the coasts and several Midwestern cities. They are largely ethnically homogenous communities that have very little exposure to people who are significantly different from them. College education is not a priority or a possibility for a good chunk of this population. On the flip side of the coin, you have the eastern and western seaboards that are hubs for globalization. They are marked by incredibly dense and diverse populations. College education is a norm for these people. Thus, you have two American societies that are increasingly different and increasingly out of touch with the other. This breeds divisiveness, anger and, unfortunately, hatred. According to Pew Research, more than half of the members of each party have “very unfavorable” views about the other. The otherization of each by each is a serious problem that needs to be corrected if the union is to remain a union.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump fell prey to the whims of their core supporters. Secretary Clinton referred to the critical mass of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables”. Of course, there are many in the liberal, elite, urbanized areas that believe people who support Trump (or Republicans, limited government and religious freedom) must be bigots, and there can be no other explanation for how they vote. Quite easily done, there are many in the conservative, common, rural areas that believe people who support Clinton (or Democrats, bigger government and gun regulations) are harbingers of tyranny, and there can be no other explanation for how they vote.
Now that I have laid out a rather bleak picture of where we are at currently. I must plead with the members of this community to begin living up to the credos of tolerance, compassion and understanding that we promulgate at Rutgers. If someone came up to me and said “Rutgers is a place where diversity and inclusion of peoples, faiths and customs are a top priority,” I would wholeheartedly agree. If the same person then said “Rutgers is a place where diversity and inclusion of ideas and opinions are a top priority,” I would laugh. We must not kid ourselves. Rutgers is an unfriendly place for students who believe in limited government, individualism, capitalism, Glenn Beck or even George Washington. There is a lot of work to be done on our own campus for those who believe in the progressive paradigm that dominates discourse throughout the University to begin to understand those who have differing opinions. If Rutgers is to truly be a model of diversity and inclusion, then this would be a great place to start making that a reality.
For Rutgers and the rest of the country, if we do not make overtures to those who we disagree with, if we do not make attempts to at the very least understand each other, then as a nation of free peoples we will die by our own hand. A nation based on liberty, on freedom, stands no chance if its populace is divided into two large camps that refuse to parley with each other. If you were horrified at Trump-inspired Nazi graffiti, if you were disgusted at the mob holding signs saying “Rape Melania” outside of Trump Tower, if you were incensed at a man being dragged from his car and beaten in the street, then you must swear on your sacred honor that you will not be a part of the socio-political trends that have brought us into this dark time. Go talk to people who disagree with you. Educate your friends and your neighbors on these differences. Encourage pluralism around you, and pluralism will be encouraged everywhere.
If we do not do these things, whether you be a coastal liberal or a rural conservative or somewhere in between, then we have no right to complain as our nation disintegrates into political tribalism. President Trump would be the least of our worries when we cannot trust or want to trust our neighbors. I believe we can turn things around, but it cannot be done alone.
Steven Wynen is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in history and political science with a minor in economics. His column, “Reality Check,” runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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