The biggest surprise of this election came not from President Obama or Governor Romney but from the Speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner. The congressman, who has enough beef with the President to open his own Taco Bell, promised bipartisan immigration reform, conceded that he will not fight to repeal Obamacare, and proposed that Republicans and Democrats can find common ground and reduce the deficit.
The last four years have been wrought with gridlock, but now that Obama’s lease has been renewed, Congress recognizes the need for cooperation. If both sides of the aisle can stop competing for wins and instead work for the good of their constituents, then why can’t we, the constituents, stop bickering and find common ground among ourselves?
I was taught to hate Republicans before I was taught what a Republican stood for. My political beliefs were formed not from nature but from nurture, from growing up in the Northeast where “conservative” is a pejorative term and to call someone “liberal” is stating the obvious.
I live in a blue state, and I attend college in an even bluer one. In high school, there was the token conservative kid who was unfairly labeled as racist and homophobic. At BU, a number of my otherwise respectable professors openly express their liberal beliefs, and some professors ridicule those who identify as conservative. This same mentality, only vice versa, exists in red states where Democrats are ostracized by Republicans.
I understand that differences in occupation, religion, ethnicity, and education are what create these geopolitical regions. I refuse to believe, however, that where you’re from, whether you say “soda” or “pop,” justifies the cult-like worship of one party and persecution of the other, the childish name-calling and slander, and the overall trend of baseless antagonization that defines political discourse today.
In no way am I arguing that we should be more politically homogenous. I reject not political differences but political hatred. Nor do I believe that each party is infallible and should be treated equally. In my opinion, the Republican Party is fundamentally wrong on issues regarding same-sex marriage and women’s rights. Nevertheless, a large number of Americans believe that Democrats are fundamentally wrong for supporting abortion.
The easy way out is to insult the other side, to claim that all liberals are baby killers and that every Republican is a religious nut. The road less traveled, however, is to admit your own bias and proceed with intelligent conversation. My point is that while you may think you’re right, and while the color of your state tells you that you’re right, the other half of the country thinks you’re wrong. Each side must respect and understand where the other is coming from before any progress is to be made.
And the truth of the matter is that progress will never be made, not if we continue to use hatred to highlight our differences. The more we sequester ourselves into spheres of red and blue, the harder it becomes to reach common ground.