On America’s polarized political climate: why is it so difficult to admit it when we’re wrong? | A Teen's Palo Alto | Jessica Zang | Palo Alto Online |

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About this blog: I’m Jessica Zang, a Palo Alto-born, slightly cynical Gunn High School student who’s passionate about linking high school life to the bigger picture. What’s really going on in our high schools in Palo Alto? Everything a high ...  (More)

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On America’s polarized political climate: why is it so difficult to admit it when we’re wrong?

Uploaded: Aug 16, 2020
Living in Palo Alto often feels like living in a city-sized bubble; there is little variation in opinion, and a general view of society that everybody adopts without question. Especially in the world of social media and social justice, any diversity in thought is promptly shut down—all I see are nodding heads and closed minds.

Writing this blog has given me the privilege of being exposed to many different ideas in the comments and emails, albeit ones that make me uncomfortable. Through this, I have done my best to understand the rationale behind statements I would’ve found controversial and untrue. It is too easy to allow our minds to be molded by the beliefs that surround us, repeated again and again and again; it is much harder to face another opinion, question what we believe is right, and introduce fluidity into the set of values we live by.

Despite being in such a homogenized environment, I am also painfully aware of the divide in American opinion: left versus right, democrat versus republican. The constant intake of biased media and its coverage of extreme circumstances creates a world where both sides immediately vilify the other. In order to reach an acceptable compromise or solution within our society, we need to be mature enough to speak with the intention to be educated, rather than fight for the sake of pushing down people we disagree with.

Going through the movements of life is nothing without change and flexibility. Our core values are subject to adapt and grow as our environment changes, and this kind of character development is the mechanism that helps us become new, better people. With the intake of information, unbiased statistics, and persuasive arguments, understand that we aren’t always right the first try; it’s far better to go with the narrative we assemble from experience than stubbornly cling to outdated or unreasonable values.

I will admit; being open is difficult, especially in our modern age. Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook only work to perpetuate the fixed mindset of many people. Instagram feeds are programmed to surround users with their own opinions and block out anything they might not agree with. As a result, people are never truly introduced to the other side, and cleverly worded catchphrases solidify people’s perspectives beyond reason.

In addition, social media communities often foster hostile behavior and prevent productive conversation. Under any Instagram post are influxes of single-sided comments, as gifted by the algorithm that groups like-minded people together. Any contradictory sentiment, even those asking for clarification and guidance, tend to be quickly and harshly criticized. Without the emotional maturity to begin difficult conversations while not doling out personal attacks, there will be an increasingly negative atmosphere where facilitating productive discussion is nearly impossible.

In order to shape our perspective into the one that best fits our values, we have to actively seek these difficult conversations. It’s hard to talk to people—both loved ones and complete strangers—who disagree with us, but being aware that we are not born with all of the answers is a step towards bridging the gap that continues to push people apart.
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Comments

 +   6 people like this
Posted by Justin Case, a resident of another community,
on Aug 18, 2020 at 10:11 am

Justin Case is a registered user.

>"The constant intake of biased media and its coverage of extreme circumstances creates a world where both sides immediately vilify the other."

>"...people are never truly introduced to the other side, and cleverly worded catchphrases solidify people's perspectives beyond reason."

^ You hit the nail on the head Jessica as countless viewers are being influenced by biased media news outlets such as CNN & FOX News which are little more than left/right opinionated diversions masquerading as reportage...no different than an editorial section of a newspaper.

They strive to rile issues up via polarization and to the majority of them, the news is strictly a form of entertainment subsidized by massive advertising dollars & physically enhanced by physically attractive actors posing as news journalists.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Justin Case, a resident of another community,
on Aug 18, 2020 at 10:13 am

Justin Case is a registered user.

last vestige of trusted, authentic, & unbiased news reportage.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Justin Case, a resident of another community,
on Aug 18, 2020 at 10:14 am

Justin Case is a registered user.

PBS is the last vestige of trusted, authentic, & unbiased news reportage.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Aug 18, 2020 at 2:05 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@ Justin Case...
Yes, it's not news, it's not unbiased reporting, and the actors are not true journalists/columnists. It's just a bunch of paid hack actors offering opinions and being paid by cable news networks, siding with one party or the other.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Jon Castor, a resident of Woodside,
on Aug 18, 2020 at 4:58 pm

Jon Castor is a registered user.

Thank you for posting this Jessica!


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Curious, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 18, 2020 at 10:07 pm

Curious is a registered user.

Jessica this is well-written food for thought, and I find it refreshing to read your understanding that both sides of an issue are important to understand, in order to evaluate and draw conclusions. My only question is which values would you consider "outdated" or "unreasonable"? A value is generally something that remains true over time and in any circumstance. What values do you find that make up the "bubble" of Palo Alto? I bet if we all wrote a list of values we think make up most Palo Altans, our lists would be different. I think your thinking is intriguing, and I applaud you for writing it down.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 20, 2020 at 10:59 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

Well said, Jessica!

I am a Hispanic woman. I am an immigrant. However, I am also conservative. While the Bay Area pats itself on the back for being so "tolerant," most conservatives, Republicans or libertarians in this area often feel the brunt of sociopolitical intolerance.

I've often felt that discussing things in person provides a different perspective than how we interact online. People who might dismiss me might have a different perspective if we spoke in person.

Even on the Palo Alto Online forums, I've been attacked with subtle racial jabs because I am a Hispanic conservative. Most of the time, the moderators delete the offensive posts (or potions of those posts) directed at me or my race and gender.

In person, I suspect that this wouldn't be a problem. If people knew us, they probably wouldn't generalize, stereotype or be as prone to argue against a straw man caricature.

Thanks again for your wonderful reminder!


 +   7 people like this
Posted by A Midtown Parent, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 21, 2020 at 12:47 pm

A Midtown Parent is a registered user.

Jessica, thanks for posting your genuine thoughts in a well written blog. I don't necessarily agree with you that people in Palo Alto have 'little variation in opinion'. Perhaps people here try their best to be open minded and inclusive. Although Palo Alto is a 'liberal leaning' town, I am sure there are many conservatives, and republican voters here.

I do agree that social media tend to group like-minded people together, based on beliefs, languages and even geographic locations. News web sites also feed the articles with opinions people tend to agree to, and the news people are interested in. I had to go to a different news outlet to read other events happening in the world because Apple News feeds me more and more of my 'favorite' stories and topics everyday.

I applaud your writing on being open and seek difficult conversations. The ability to be open minded, self-critical, and to admit that we don't know all the answers and need to constantly learn new things and improve ourselves is the essence of enlightenment and human progress. Seeking fact-based knowledge, with the belief that people will know much more than what we know today, in my opinion, enabled the incredible scientific and technological advancement in the last 500 years, as compared to the previous 4500 years of human history.


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Justin Case, a resident of another community,
on Aug 22, 2020 at 12:29 pm

Justin Case is a registered user.

>"Although Palo Alto is a 'liberal leaning' town, I am sure there are many conservatives, and Republican voters here."

^ It's all relative based on demographic parameters.

In various Orange County & San Diego County cities/towns, the exact opposite tends to hold true.

Similar polar variants also exist in Miami-Dade County (Florida) where there are many conservative/Republican Hispanic voters.

Yes...there is a sizable number of politically & fiscally conservative
resident voters in Palo Alto so rest assured that you are not alone.










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