As a Philosophy, Politics and the Public major, my academic life is fueled with political discussion.
Day in and day out I am forced to put my political theories to the test. Whether we are having an in-class discussion or I am simply talking to my peers, I am challenged to think outside of my own experiences and preconceived notions of how the world works.
Politically, I have jockeyed between being a Republican and a Democrat. I view my stance on political life as issue dependent. In my experience, I have never believed fully that either Republicans or Democrats possess every answer I need for the pressing issues we face as a society.
In a democracy, the art of compromise is central to our livelihood. Compromise brought us our constitution. It’s what structures and formats the life we see around us and it should continue to be enforced as the most important concept to achieving the goals of equity and sustainability for all.
The art of compromise led me to be who I am politically: an independent. Independents often become marginalized when they support presidential candidates that everyday folk claim to be crazy. In our current political landscape, which encourages controversy and hearsay in developing opinions on political issues, the moderate independent has to strike a balance between two sides that find less and less to agree upon each passing day.
Residing in the middle comes with its challenges. Partisan life is very appealing. Living in your own echo chamber among those who agree with you is a comforting life. Not having to step outside of your own experiences to challenge your belief system is effortless. Holding an identity as a member of either of the two major parties provides you with a community to belong to, whereas choosing to remain neutral often forces you to remain in your own political nebula.
As someone raised by Democrats, I tend to side with those on the left on a majority of issues. My political experiences have come by the side of those who tend to hold liberal beliefs, and it has shaped my conscious. One thing that was stressed to me early in life, however, is that human beings aren’t perfect. Nobody I know or will ever know has all the answers.
So how could I side with just one political party? I mean, they are made up of people after all. If nobody has all the answers, then why should I divert my political attention toward the few? Why shouldn’t I keep a truly open mind and absorb information from all walks of life?
A two-party system makes it easy to stop questioning your beliefs. It is the path of least resistance to listen to those of a like mind, but that does not mean by any stretch that the path of least resistance is the right path.
In my mind, the right path is to listen. Listening is a gift, not only to you but to the people you listen to. By doing something as simple as listening to someone express their thoughts on a given issue, you gain access to another person’s wealth of knowledge and experience you otherwise would not have known. In return, you offer comfort and bits of validation to the person who realizes their experiences are worth hearing.
I challenge you, the person who just listened to my ideas, do the same to others. Not only will you expand your horizon as a thinker, but you will be given the opportunity to express to those who you listen to your own beliefs. The more people we can encourage to stay off the beaten path of partisanship, the more we can access the purest form of democracy, the art of compromise.