• Karen Tran-Harding

Why is America so divided?

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s a fact that America is divided in all matters of life whether it be about politics, the economy, opinions on society, and so on. How did we get here?

The truth is we are all so vastly different from each other that there actually will never be one solution or policy that will benefit every single person. My father in law, a white Calvinist preacher in his 60’s does not want the same things that one of my good friends, a Vietnamese soon-to-be entrepreneur engaged to another woman wants. A young professional living in Manhattan does not care for the same things as a rural farmer in Kansas. It’s human nature to think of yourself and your family first especially in today’s crazy society. With every rule and regulation, someone will benefit but someone else will inevitably lose out.

You know that classic quote: “If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35, you have no brain”? Some of that may have to do with how our lives change as we age and the concept of the nuclear family. When we are younger, we tend to meet more diverse people in more varying aspects of life – whether by gender, socioeconomic status, sexuality, or jobs. We meet people through college or school, the workplace, going out for a fun night, even on vacation.

But, as we get older, settle down, and have children, we tend to focus on our immediate family and a much smaller close-knit group of friends that have similar beliefs as our own. College professors may have more liberal points of view than the same aged man living in a small rural town because the college professor is likely interacting with many different people with different ideals constantly in his day to day life.

And Politicians know this too. Elected officials work accordingly to their own beliefs and are trying to appease what they feel is the majority, whether that’s their support base or those funding them. “We need to continue the coal mining industry in order to secure jobs for thousands of people.” But what if you are conservationist and are concerned about the environmental impacts of coal mining? “We need to increase taxes in order to renovate run down school buildings.” But what if you don’t have any children or ever plan to have any?

I even believe that most people really do want to save the environment and enjoy nature. But if your own economic livelihood involves drilling for oil and cutting down trees to drive the economy, then some people are forced to consider their own current situation and how to provide for their family than to think about their great, great grandchildren and how terrible the environment could be in the future.

We can always try to “walk in someone else’s shoes” but truthfully, can we ever really? I will never actually know what it’s like to be a black man, innocently driving along a dark road afraid that I may have an altercation with law enforcement. I will never actually know what it’s like to grow up in an extremely religious household, that believes that homosexual relationships are a sin. But because we will never be able to truly know what someone’s real life experience feels like, we should prevent ourselves from ever passing judgment too quickly on others. We can all at least try to see it from a different view than our own and try to gain empathy for others despite our different backgrounds.

I also try my hardest to not use the words “all”, “every”, “none” or pretty much any word that is completely inclusive or exclusive. And it’s because I have found over time that you just cannot possibly apply any singular idea or concept to “all” or “none”. There will always, always be an exception. And if we try to use that idea as much as we can in our everyday life, it will prevents a “with us or against us” mentality and most of all, will help lessen detrimental stereotypes.

In the end we will never all agree. But what I hope is that everyone will try their best to listen.

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