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Jun 28 2017
by Anne Marie Yurik

The Importance of Understanding in Today's Political Climate

By Anne Marie Yurik - Jun 28 2017

When Abraham Lincoln said that a nation divided cannot stand, I doubt he foresaw the polarization that would occur in the twenty-first century.

Hate crimes and bitter political battles have given opinions an astounding amount of power. The thought that, "If my opinions on healthcare, gun laws, immigration standards and much more do not line up with yours, we must be bitter enemies," has taken over the nation. 

People are being defined by what they believe in one circumstance. If you care the most about immigration laws, and you talk to someone else about politics, one of the issues you will bring up is most likely immigration, understandably. However, if that person does not hold your opinion, it is customary to assume they are arrogant or ignorant. Or both.

I get it. When you have personal experience in one realm, what can someone who doesn't have that knowledge really know? And when it is personal, it is hard to take that person's rejection of your idea as just that: The rejection of an idea and not you.

But now more than ever, when the truth is nuanced and muddy and impossible to fully comprehend, we need to work together. It was said that truth is like a broken mirror. Everyone holds one piece but they assume they know it all. However, if we all put those pieces of truth together the progress we would make could be astounding.

I am not saying that one idea or the other is wrong. I too only hold one piece of the truth. The danger comes when we take our sliver of the truth and assume that it is the whole truth. The inability to see that everyone holds their own version of reality catalysts bitter fights and arguments. The skill of truly listening to another person's ideas of the truth creates an environment of understanding.

We cannot change what we do not know. We cannot change things that we do not completely understand. Thus, it is necessary to speak and listen to people, and if after truly listening to others you still believe in your ideas, then you can know for certain that you can make an educated, beneficial change.

How does this apply to college or the future? Well, wherever you go, having people skills is a must, so you will need to be able to get along with those who might not see eye to eye with you. Part of being an active member of society, whether it be on a college campus or out there in the real world, requires us to stand in the shoes of others and understand their perspective on issues and discussions pertinent to them.

The world does not need to be divided today. We need to put our pieces of truth together to find the whole truth and do what is right. Every voice deserves to be heard in order to represent all sides. Only then will people feel heard. Yelling cannot change people's minds, but talking and showing our truth just might.

Lead Image Credit: Pexels

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Anne Marie Yurik - University of Pittsburgh

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