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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By Jessica Zang

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right the first try; it’s far better to go with the narrative we assemble from experience than stubbornly cling to outdated or unreasonable values.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.