No matter where you are on campus, it is impossible to escape hearing about the straining political arena and the polarized climate that we are in. Whether in class or simply sitting in the dining hall, everyone seems to have an opinion about where this country is and where it is headed. With the 2020 presidential election around the corner, however, it is important to remember that identifying or affiliating with Democrats or Republicans should not mean everything. In other words, we should not fear looking at an issue from multiple perspectives outside our own.
Yes, this is easier said than done. Many of us already identify with a party or have strong opinions about how we want the social and economic future of our country to look. In fact, key factors such as education, birthplace, religion, and job prospects, make it possible to map where individuals stand on the political spectrum. There are, of course, those who deviate from this predicted standard, but the majority of us tend to stand where our early upbringing and environments have taken us.
But what if the majority stopped being the majority? What if we were to look at things objectively – from the point of view of an outsider? This hypothetical is something that can be seen right here on campus.
All of us are imprinted with certain social beliefs, stereotypes, and expectations from the moment we can understand a language. My friends, your friends, and people in general are born into cultures that they must understand and (unfortunately) abide by because of the unwritten consequences of being isolated or ignored by their entire family or community. Whether this be in the Deep South or up North, in the rural or urban sectors, in the uptowns or downtowns of a city, or simply within one’s culture, a fear of straying from the acceptable belief set can significantly impact the way we form our values. Often, our learned beliefs are positively reinforced while our vehement opposition to contrary opinions becomes more entrenched.
However, as we get older and move away from the immediate location of our political socialization, we can learn more about issues that polarize our government and people respectively. We can actively engage with this new knowledge and change the way we think about our beliefs that can, at times, come to a head on campus. As students, and as the next generation of voters, politicians, and lawmakers, we have the opportunity to reverse the hatred and polarizing path of our nation and to opt for a more collaborative and cooperative approach.
At Harvard, we are no longer in the midst of the politically exclusive realm of our community. We are no longer inclined to ignore or oppose the other political party. We are no longer able to use the excuses of our backgrounds to remain ignorant and unresponsive to ours and others concerns. We have the freedom to break away from our background strongholds and to create our own independent thoughts by adapting to the arguments, oppositions, and concerns of others. We can utilize the diversity of campus to develop workable skills to unite as people rather than to sensationalize differences as parties.
Just because we affiliate with a party does not mean we have to bash the other. Or, just because we are open to listening to the other side does not mean we have to agree with what they represent. Rather, our democracy was created under the impression that the diverging views of groups could hash out their issues and come to a more cohesive solution. Therefore, to be a better country and to avoid political turmoil, we must identify and comprehend group struggles while finding common ground for solutions. As young adults, we may not be the entire electorate or be able to make policy changes in the system, but we are able to remind ourselves and others that our backgrounds provide only half the story. That viewing the world through the lens of others maybe, just maybe, will give us a brighter tomorrow, both locally and nationally.
Ridhwana Z. Haxhillari ’21, an inactive Crimson Editorial editor, is a Government concentrator in Lowell House.