By Joe Yamulla || Opinion & Editorial Editor
Republicans and Democrats never had a great relationship, but tensions have risen dramatically in 2017. This past election will be remembered for a lot of things: a woman won a major party primary for the first time ever in the United States and a non-politician dominated Washington. However, we are living in an era that will be remembered for its widespread divisiveness across political parties and American ideologies.
Donald Trump prides himself on his ability to give a middle finger to the Washington establishment and career politicians. He wants to strip everything down, and basically start over with his gleaming “bigly” plan to make this country better than it already is. Of course, those on board with his master plan are thrilled. Those like myself, who opposed Trump from the beginning, are certainly angered, confused, and frustrated. America is a passionate nation. Revolution is in fact, the foundation of our very humble beginnings. Everyone is ready to fight for what they believe in, and that’s a good thing. But, the profound gap between American perspectives has fostered a war in a sense, amongst the population. Yes, we’ve witnessed the unity of the millions who peacefully protested following the inauguration. However, opposing, conservative groups have watched these efforts with hostility and criticism. This divide is more heartbreaking than it is dangerous, for now.
2017 was not a year of chance. Furthermore, the road to national division is a fascinating and unfortunate sequence of events. It all comes down to a mindset. Everyone feels that they in the right, and a dissenting opinion is not only a direct threat to them, but a threat to the right way of living. America is one big country. From east to west, north to south, the United States has so many different groups with so many different people born and raised into their set circumstances and hope to sustain that way of life and the values associated with it. Blue collar workers in rust belt towns are a pissed off group. You can take my word for it, I was born and raised in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Hazleton is a former coal mining town that lost all industry and commerce after resources dwindled and manufacturing plants moved across the border. Whenever I return home and walk around town, I’m the bright red outlier. If I go into a bar in town and talk about my liberal beliefs, open support of Hillary Clinton, and opposition to both coal and the Keystone Pipeline, I’d probably get beer poured on me. I get upset about this, but the thing is, I get it. They see me in the same light that blue collar Americans view most liberals. We are this privileged group attending expensive colleges, ignoring their basic needs to feed their families, while talking about environmental protection initiatives. Because of this, I have this semblance of compassion towards those who voted for Trump. It makes sense, they want change and they want to feel like someone in Washington actually cares about their humble livelihoods.
This compassion I feel, however, in no way makes me content with today’s state of being. I have deep concerns about these next four years of Trump. I worry about the planet, minority groups, human and women’s rights. In a way, I hope that those who do support Trump’s decisions could follow a similar path to myself. They don’t have to agree with me, as I sure don’t agree with them. Changing this divided culture, though, only occurs by trying to understand the opposition. If conservatives could understand the concerns of liberals, and vice versa, major change could be possible. The divide of the American people continues to grow as we get up in arms about dissenting opinions and fuel our anger. The truth is, as hard as it may be to read, no one knows what it’s like to live an existence far different from their own. We don’t need to fight others over what they believe, but rather we need to listen to it. A student needs to do his or her best to envision life as a construction worker trying to send two kids to college, and the construction worker needs to understand the perspective of a professor who devotes herself to environmental protection or racial and gender equality.
We’ll never get to the point where everyone agrees, or where our tension is completely alleviated—and that’s okay. However, the state of being in the United States right now is frightening. It is a divided nation and a wounded nation that needs care and commitment to heal. This mending does not start nor end with agreement. Rather, it starts with the simple act of understanding and empathizing with the opinions, motives, and beliefs of others.
Junior Joe Yamulla is the Opinion & Editorial Editor. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.