We live in a world of political polarization: our social media is algorithmically-tuned to feed us opinions we agree with, news organizations have growing partisan slants, and the available middle ground between political parties is shrinking.
Our identities are often clear indicators of what side of the political spectrum we fall on. I am a university student who lives in urban British Columbia. My parents are small business owners who live in rural Saskatchewan. Guess who’s on the left and who’s on the right?
In some ways, our opposing views are reflective of modern political polarization. On Facebook, my parents post anti-Trudeau memes, and I ‘like’ each and every Bernie Sanders post. They mostly interact with right-leaning content, and I mostly interact with left-leaning content.
In others ways, our opposing views are not reflective of modern political polarization. For example, I am not ignorant enough to believe my politics are categorically correct while theirs are categorically wrong, a stance which is too common in today’s discourse. I am receptive to listening to their ideas, and, throughout my life, they’ve been receptive to listening to mine.
However, I’ll admit I don’t feel this way about other people on the right. When I find out someone I know is conservative, a voice in my head instinctually shouts, “you must not be friends with the enemy!”
So what’s different about my relationship with my parents? For one, they taught me many of the moral principles by which I navigate life. They spend much of their time, energy, and money giving back to their community and investing in social programs to help society’s most marginalized. When I think of an example of good, decent people in this world, I think of my parents—the fact that they’re conservatives doesn’t change what I know in my heart to be true.
In the spirit of decreasing polarization, the question becomes: how can I provide the same benefit of the doubt to people with different (and reasonable) political views that I provide my parents? I’ll let you know when I find out.