I've never been a confrontational person. In fact, I have mastered the head nod and "I understand where you're coming from" combo when people tell me their opinions are right over mine. But this political season is different. I'm seeing a new side of myself and a new side of some of my friends when I hear whom they're voting for and why.
"How lucky are we to live in a country with so many different people who are able to voice their opinions?" I think to myself. That is, until someone's political views are so unsettling I sincerely question who he or she is as a person.
My need to prove people wrong has trumped my desire to avoid talking about politics. Try as I might, I can't help it. This election is bringing the parties so far to the left and right that they almost fall off the spectrum, which makes it practically impossible to have an educated conversation with someone who may swing the opposite way.
At first, I wondered, is this adulting? Does my status as a registered voter mean I have to argue with everyone who may not have the same political views as I do? If adulting does equal arguing, where will that get me?
It seems like the political assaults are getting us even further from our goal of coming to a consensus about what is best for our country. Maybe it's the Millennial in me, but I don't see why we can't put our verbal weapons down this election season.
I am all for discussion. I am intrigued to hear what people think about the issues that affect them and why they think that way. I like to talk, but I love to listen. I keep an open mind, and if I'm lucky, I learn something.
Unfortunately, this is just not what goes down when two people who disagree talk politics. Especially in such a polarized presidential race, it can be almost impossible to find common ground, and arguments only strengthen your opponent's beliefs.
People feel the need to incessantly hammer their views into their opponent's mind just so they become more firm in their own beliefs. They push each other further from the middle. What began as an exchange of ideas becomes counterproductive, and it only ends with both parties feeling even more convinced they were right.
None of us know the whole story. As much as we like to think we are the all-knowing source for information during election season, more often than not, that just isn't the case. Whether you are a political science major or you liked Politico on Facebook, you probably don't know the whole story.
We all get our information from the media in some shape or form, and we are all subject to some biases that go along with even the most top-notch reporting. We don't know what happens behind closed doors, so we shouldn't argue like we do.
Political beliefs are just a part of who someone is. We don't write people off for their religion, race or ethnicity, so why would we do exactly that when people say they support a candidate we don't? We're better than that.
Instead of closing our minds to the idea that their ideas may have merit, we could ask why they believe in a certain policy, party or candidate. We should take the time to understand before proclaiming our own beliefs as the be-all and end-all.
At the end of the day, we just want what's best for people. We might not agree on what's best, but we're all reaching toward a common goal. Election season gives us the opportunity to learn about the issues and take a stance based on what we think will benefit our families, our country and ourselves.
Even if that is the only thing we agree on, it's enough to avoid the heated arguments and long-winded Facebook comments. We already have the most powerful voice there is. Shameless spats don't help candidates win elections; votes do.
The personal fulfillment you feel after you (think) you have proven someone wrong doesn't make anyone any more likely to become the next president of the United States. We need to use the power we do have to have our voices heard where it really matters, and we need to stop wasting our breath trying to change the viewpoints of our peers.