Listening to America


Evan Roberts and Dongyoung Won

Listening is an incredibly important part of a healthy relationship. Actively hearing what your friend, family or significant other is saying is how understanding can develop and thrive.

Recently, as a nation, we have lost touch with our ability to listen to people who disagree with us and it has caused a great divide to form.

Listening to one another, instead of engaging in yelling matches that lack civility and dignity, is the only way this great partisan divide can be healed.

Sometime in the past decade, the social justice warriors of the left and the alt-righters stopped being willing to listen to one another. They have instead reverted to plugging their ears and raising their voices, leading to a standstill in American politics.

This behavior has spread from the outer extremities of both political leanings and into the heart of American politics. The unwillingness to listen caused by unreasonable indignation at opposing viewpoints is seminal to the hatred and divide present in America’s current political climate.

Debate and conversation are critical pieces of a healthy democracy. In a political system where progress and legislation are dependent on communication between the two political parties, if open channels don’t exist then no meaningful progress can happen.

Worse than stagnation, an atmosphere of silence and isolation causes opposing viewpoints to overtime demonize each other.

It’s hard to say where this environment first started. There were polarizing groups like Occupy Wall Street or the Tea Party movement, and while they are not exactly equivalents, they do represent fracturing.

Over these past few weeks, those who wanted Trump in the office have seen protestors and rioters in the streets of many cities. All the Republicans have been able to see are whiny millennials who didn’t get what they wanted.

Anti-Trumpers have only been able to see anyone who voted for Trump as a racist who is uncaring about any minorities or people who are different than them.

The reality is much different for both camps.

Liberals are feeling scared and worried about the now very vocal alt-right and all of the racism and bigotry that comes with it.

Conservatives have felt like they have had no voice in government over the past decade and are worried about being able to provide for their families’ safety and wellbeing.

There are crazy skinheads who voted for Trump and are excited about his presidency, but 60 million or so people who voted for him are not all against the LBGTQ community or hate minorities. In fact, the clear majority of them do not.

And the vast majority of those who are upset about the Republican takeover of Capitol Hill and the presidency are not violently rioting in the street.

The loudest voice in a crowd will always attract the most attention and in this election cycle that has been the edges of both parties.

There are many different ways that an atmosphere of purposeful listening can be fostered. Communities could host public forums where opposing sides can both speak and listen to each other. News programs and talk shows could have more guests on their shows from a different political viewpoint to listen to them rather than yell each other.

Most importantly, individuals need to reach out to friends, family, coworkers or classmates who think differently than they do and just listen. If you give someone else the time to share their viewpoints they will almost certainly be more inclined to ask you about your views and listen.

Evan Roberts can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.