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A House Divided

Friendships created during your college experience are often based on simple factors like proximity to one another or common interests. Maybe you united in Newton exile, or your stellar coordination met its match on the ultimate frisbee team. Whether these connections have been five months or almost four years in the making, the circumstances of the recent election have put all of your close relationships through a political filter.

Whether you favor blue or red, the past few weeks have been filled with increased tension, low productivity, and post-election frustration. Your roommates can’t wait in the dining hall line without getting into a political altercation, and your social media feed has transformed itself into a political battleground. In a time of such polarization, it becomes easy to find comfort in the bubble of your own opinions. You shy away from political confrontation to avoid the disheartenment that comes when people you love choose something that you find so fundamentally wrong. Thus, you ask yourself the question, What do you do when politics have caused you to question the friendships you’ve made?

As convoluted as it sounds, finding the humanity in political discord can save you from further inner turmoil. Upsets are just as common as any legislative shift, yet no one wants to be on the losing side of defeat. The reality of the matter is that, win or lose, we are all supposed to be on the same team. In his address to the media following the recent election, President Barack Obama remarked, “Now, everybody is sad when their side loses an election, but the day after we have to remember that we're actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We're not Democrats first. We're not Republicans first. We're Americans first. We’re patriots first.” At the end of the day, we all want what is best for this country: a sense of unity, inclusion, and respect for one another. Though not always inspiring, discrepancies are the nature of democracy that fuel political growth.

For such prosperity to occur, we have to be willing to face conflict. There is nothing wrong with holding your ground, but seeking an understanding of the opposing opinion is just as important as having one of your own. There is a distinction between being right about something and being committed to something. Being right consequently makes somebody else wrong; on the other hand, being committed allows one to engage productively with other points of view. If you are committed, you might even welcome the chance to talk with someone whose beliefs are different from your own. But if being right is your main priority, there’s not much room for people who don’t share your position to be anything but wrong.

From friendships to politics, no relationship can endure an extreme division. It may be easy to disengage from an immoral or unjust political world, but it is our responsibility to ask these questions and to put a face to these beliefs. As Abraham Lincoln said in his famous Springfield address in 1858, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Thus, instead of detesting the current state of disunion in your eight-man, look to initiate civil conversations that promote understanding. Political disagreements will remain at a standstill until we deconstruct the layers of antagonism and begin to forge the shared foundation that our nation was built upon.