by Viraj Ayar
[CDM Education Caucus Chair]
Politics has always been a challenging subject for me. I’ve moved around so many places that I practically know people throughout the entire political spectrum. But pinpointing my own preferences has been a difficult journey because I have been exposed to so many different sides of the same issue that, at times, I don’t know what’s right. Why does my Republican friend in Alabama oppose free healthcare and gun control when my progressive friend in Toronto goes to every rally and protest to support them? I mean it’s obvious that it has to do with the nature of their environment and upbringing, but why is it so hard for them to understand each other’s perspective? Why can’t they argue like rational human beings rather than just thinking of a counterattack?
It’s because our political bubbles have far greater ramifications than just division; our ideas become bulletproof to the point of no return. Rather than coming to a mutual understanding, we cling to our ideals because we are certain that the other side is wrong. We refuse to give up an inch of our territory because we hope that by spamming the other side with our message they will realize the errors of their ways. The other side does the same, and we get stuck in a never-ending stalemate that strips us of any human decency.
It took me a long time to decide my political preferences. At first, I was against many things. Only after getting my ideas hammered again and again did I realize what I believed in. Growing up in a conservative, upper class household in India, I didn’t exactly have the most liberal attitudes on gay rights or taxes. After I moved to Canada, I was forced out of my bubble, and I met people who had different outlooks than mine. Eventually, our arguments led me to realize that I was extremely wrong on gay rights and that taxes weren’t necessarily a bad thing. But, it was only after this willingness to get my ideas attacked did I come to my conclusions. Of course, if I didn’t move around, none of this would have happened, and I would have been stuck in my conservative bubble. But, the point is that we are losing our abilities to step out of our comfort zone and actually see the other side’s viewpoint.
Not everyone gets to see how the other half lives, and I guess that’s why we get so caught up with our feuds. But, the more we do this, the harder it will be to reach common ground. I think we have become too overprotected by our opinions that we shun anything that we disagree with. We need to be forced out of our comfort zones. It’s an unpopular opinion in the Democratic Party, but I think concepts like safe spaces that shelter our viewpoints should be abolished in institutions like universities so we are forced to actually listen. We shouldn’t be protected from ideas; they should face them head on and form a conclusion on their own. It’s the only way forward, or else, we will lose our ability to connect and understand one another.