Not to point out the obvious, but the United States is divided—obviously. The Right political party cannot stand the Left, and the Left cannot stand the Right. Those who don masks do so while comparing themselves to Batman, superheroes of the Covid-19 world, and those who refuse to wear masks throw tantrums despite the signs displayed on every store, stating: “No shoes, No shirt, No mask, No service.” Paraphrased. Add the “Black Lives Matter” protests, the “Defund the Police” movement, the recent election… we all understand what I am saying. To say the United States is in a state of chaos would be generous.
What causes division in a society? Many things. But, a huge influencer of the current division in the United States is the inability to separate people from their opinions.
You support the police? Damn racist. You wear a mask? Do you even care about our individual freedoms? Beef is what’s for dinner? You might as well just melt the ice caps yourself. And do not even get me started on women and their push for a place in government.
Are there topics about the world, the environment, and American society that need to be addressed? Of course. And those issues are important, and engaging in research and dialogue about those issues is hugely important for creating a safer and better environment for everyone.
One issue — one I argue as the most important — centers around people’s identity. By their identity, I mean their inability, or unwillingness, to separate their opinions from their identity. You are not your political affiliation, and to limit yourself to that identity hurts yourself and society as a whole.
Your opinions do matter, however. They matter because you have lived a life no one else has. This may come across as sounding cliché, but it is entirely true: your life perspective is unique and holds value.
You believe what you believe, and you support what you support, because of the experiences you have lived. If you had lived a different life, been born in a different body, born as a different sex, or even born in a different geological place and with different parents, you would have experienced life differently. And those alternate life experiences would have influenced your beliefs, whether in large or small ways.
Those alternate beliefs in that alternate reality would be just as important to that alternate you as your current beliefs are to your current reality.
Getting caught up in your current reality is easy. Most everyone does it. It is especially easy when we are locked in our homes for extended amounts of hours, living through a global pandemic, seeing innocent people being killed by our country’s law enforcement, seeing our friends in the police force being verbally and physically attacked, and seeing those we love supporting causes we hate.
What we are not seeing are the faces, expressions, and emotions hidden behind thin pieces of cloth. Our emotions are masked, and we are forgetting that there are humans, living and breathing and hurting souls, behind those masks. Humans who have experienced a life just as rich, complex, and valid as your own life.
I am not saying that we should eliminate masks; I am saying that we should not forget to look past those masks and into the actual people who wear them.
Instead of seeing others who have different opinions, perspectives, or political affiliations than you as a threat to your identity, challenge yourself to see them as the complex souls they are, who have experienced a life you never will. They have experienced an alternate reality compared with yours. And theirs is just as real and powerful to them as yours is to you.
If you ask them about their opinions, their life experiences, and why they believe what they believe with the intent to truly understand, you will learn something. You do not need to agree with what you learn, but maybe you will understand why their opinions differ from yours. And maybe they will learn why your beliefs differ from theirs. Maybe one of you, or both of you, will gain insight and alter one of your preconceived beliefs. Maybe neither of you will.
At the very least, maybe you will have a real conversation with a real person who experiences real emotions. Because that person is not their opinions. You are not your opinions.
Rather than rushing to share your “why,” seek to understand theirs’. Seek to understand the person behind the mask. Seek to unveil that something about them that makes them so very unique, so very special, and so very human.
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19).
Autumn is a recent graduate in English-Literature and lives in Colorado Springs. During her personal time, Autumn likes hanging out with her super handsome horse, Red, and all the other 4-legged creatures in her life. Autumn is a fan of tall trees, forests, and all the wild and untamed parts of nature. She loves reading, researching, listening to others, and gaining as much insight into the physical and spiritual world as she can.
Autumn knows life can be hella hard, but she also thinks it is astonishing, amazing, complex, and fascinating. She hopes to be ever-growing and evolving, and she does her best to remain open to new perspectives, insights, or opinions that challenge her own. She would love to hear your personal stories and why one of her own articles resonated (or didn’t) with you. Autumn writes mostly about philosophy and mental health but loves to explore all topics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.