Creating Understanding, One Story At a Time

Posted by Eli Y. Michigan

Political polarization has become a huge issue in our country and by telling our own personal stories we can help to create a greater level of understanding to combat this issue.

The idea of American Creed has a negative connotation in today’s age. This is something that had never been true in the history of our country. Our country has become more politically polarized than it ever has been. Political polarization speaks to the separation of a middle ground politically. This means that views are pushed to either end of the spectrum and that understanding and willingness to compromise have decreased. This polarization seems to stem from the election of 2016. This graph, presented by Pew Research Center, shows political polarization from 1994-2017. (Graph) As you jump from year to year on this interactive graph it is very clear that the change in political polarization between 2015 and 2017 is greater than any other two year span presented on the graph. The trends of political ideology are pushed to either extreme in the 2017 graph more than anytime before. On either side the disagreements, ranging from civil disagreements all the way down to violent, seem to have increased in both frequency and scale. The overall level of understanding the “other sides’” view seems to have all but disappeared.

In this polarized political spectrum I believe that the best way to start to recreate this level of understanding is to help people understand where the opposing views are coming from. I believe that if people began to share their story and began to explain where the views that they possess came from that it would make politics more human and more personal.

I am going to share my story. This involves speaking of my views and how I formulated those views. My hope in sharing my story is to encourage my fellow Americans to share their story and that this will lead to more understanding across the aisle.

When I was growing up, politics were not a large part of my life. The only political conversations I would have would come when I was in the car with my father and there was nowhere for me to escape. My dad was very focused on presenting both sides of each issue when he would bring them up to me. He did not want to sway my political views one way or the other. My political world completely changed with the election of 2016. I remember one specific time where my friend and I were playing basketball and we came inside to watch the Republican Party primary debate. At this point in time the idea of President Trump was still a spectacle for most people. We did not end our game of 1-1 to learn about each candidates views on specific issues, we came inside because of him, he was funny, he was entertaining.

Even though my dad would present both ideas on each topic that we talked about he still instilled certain values in me that I did not see as political before this time. These are values like: love one another, everyone is to be treated equal, and everyone deserves respect. As I watched the republican debate and as I started to watch more and more political commentary I realized that it was no longer funny anymore. As his beliefs, or at least what he focused his speeches on, became more and more clear I began to realize that the agenda that Trump was pushing for were drastically against the values that my parents had been preaching to me for as long as I could remember. As he continued to gain popularity and I began to be more interested in the wellbeing of our country I realized that I could not ignore politics anymore, I was forced to decide what I believed to be right and what I believed to be wrong.

I was fifteen for most of the election of 2016. Even at this young age I did not like to be someone who just disagreed with one party, I wanted to be someone who could push for something and not someone who just pushed against something. I started to watch more and more news and as I learned about the views of the Democratic Party I realized how closely I aligned with their priorities and their views.

This is how my views were formed. Indirectly influenced by the values that my parents have taught me and formed by taking each issue that is in the news at a given time and deciding my view on it as an individual issue.

If you are someone who supports my views, I wonder how you created these views and if your story was similar to mine. If you are someone who opposes my views, I wonder how those views were formed and what comparisons in our stories can be made. Whoever you are, I want your story to be told as I firmly believe that these stories will create a more unified America. Please tell your story here.

Published on Jun 9, 2018
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Writing Our Future: American Creed is part of the National Writing Project’s family of youth publishing projects, all gathered under the Writing Our Future initiative.

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