Updated: Oct 5, 2018
Since Donald Trump’s inauguration, just over a month ago, there have been several large scale protests involving people all around the country and the world. Some have had a specific purpose like women’s rights or immigration, while others like the Not My President’s Day protest are more specifically anti-Trump oriented. Smaller protests have occurred outside state capitals and politicians’ offices, usually regarding officials’ support of Trump and his policies. Both the Women’s March organization and filmmaker, Michael Moore, have set up services just to find and organize protests. The sheer scale and frequency of these events can make them seem frightening, just because organizers claim a protest is meant to be nonviolent does not mean nobody will go against their wishes. Events this size also tend to draw the attention of the police who, while mostly good intentioned, are also not immune to unfortunate misjudgement. In this political climate that is so starkly divided, the idea that people can sit and talk civilly about issues can seem hopeless, but it does not need to be. Empathy is the enemy of polarization and by trying to understand why a person holds their beliefs and realizing that a person is more than just their beliefs, civil discourse can continue in spite of even fundamental disagreements.
The difficulties in this come from the emotion that is associated with political beliefs. People tend to become excited when they talk about politics and get agitated when someone disagrees with them. Suppressing this urge and taking a moment to try to figure out why they feel the way they do, and asking them if necessary, can make the difference between a friendly conversation and a messy argument. Much of the time, you will find that the other person really does not know why they believe what they do or even, that you do not know why you believe what you do. In either case, you are now in a position to find facts to backup your views. If this seems like too tedious of a step to take, continuing the political conversation may be a mistake in the first place, as a conversation on this topic that is not grounded in fact has no real credibility. When looking for facts, it is important to consider the source and its biases before making conclusions about its validity. Also make sure that the fact fits the argument. It is easy enough to try to argue a point by saying that members of the opposing party are violent and immoral. This is because in any group large enough, there will be violent and immoral people. Judging the whole group based on the actions of a few is both ignorant and insulting to the majority.
To be frank, the best way to get nothing at all accomplished is to not communicate between groups. This is true even outside of politics, but its effects are felt most obviously in places like congress, where even trying to openly communicate with “the opposition” can earn you a bad rep with your own party and get you put on a useless committee where your voice will barely be heard. Until we find a way to overcome this mentality of “us vs. them” nothing can move smoothly.