During the 2016 election cycle, I vividly remember seeing on my Twitter and Facebook timelines posts saying things along the lines of “Unfollow me if you voted for ___.” At the time, I ignored such posts with an eye roll thinking that they were juvenile. However, in retrospect, I realized that those sentiments were signs of a more significant problem: placing too much emphasis on one’s political ideologies over someone’s personality and identity.
In such a politically divided society, people are often quick to label others purely right or left and completely disregard the rest of what makes up a person. According to the Pew Research Center, “people with down-the-line ideological positions – especially conservatives – are more likely than others to say that most of their close friends share their political views.”
That means that many people are missing out on sharing their views and having their opinions challenged. Even more importantly, they are missing out on sharing memories and their lives with other interesting people.
Conservatives and liberals alike share a great passion for politics, and that must be celebrated. The problem with a strong passion for politics is that it can often overshadow many parts of one’s life and can become incredibly personal when dealing with opposing views. Surrounding yourself with only those who agree with you just creates an echo chamber.
According to Pew Research, “nearly two-thirds (63%) of consistent conservatives and about half (49%) of consistent liberals say most of their close friends share their political views.” Further, “three-out-of-ten (30%) consistent conservatives say they would be unhappy if an immediate family member married a Democrat and about a quarter (23%) of across-the-board liberals say the same about the prospect of a Republican in-law.”
Straightline conservatives and liberals miss out on opportunities to gave their views challenged by those with whom they disagree. When we engage with those despite their political views, we are challenged and driven to solidify our own identities.
Your political identity can be a crutch.
Some would say that our life is just one prolonged identity crisis. We are continually evolving in terms of our identities as we gain new experiences and information about ourselves. As our personalities transform, we become either more or less self-aware depending on how accepting we are to new experiences and knowledge.
However, it’s much easier to use an external label as a crutch. Because of the delicate nature of our core identities, we can just accept what others tell us to be rather than decide for ourselves. As humans, we just love to be told what to do — it’s the easy way out.
When you make a basic political ideology you’re central identity, you immediately have a community of conservatives or liberals to support you and your character, and there are many outlets to help that. Political activist groups and political campaign bandwagons can confirm your identity and allow you never to solidify your views. That being said, these sort of groups also do a lot of good through the community they provide.
There’s more to life than politics.
That’s not to say that politics is meaningless. In fact, it’s incredibly important to society, but so are art, relationships, education, religions, and culture as a whole. These parts of our society cannot be ignored in place of politics but instead intertwined in conjunction with it. How sad would it be if all we had was this political divide?
Don’t discount someone merely because they disagree with your policy preferences. You are missing out on the rest of who they are. Years ago, I would be immediately be deterred be someone being a Bernie supporter or by being a devout liberal at all. I would miss on out learning about their past experiences and other facets of their life. Even further in the past, I would completely refuse to date anyone that was less than a staunch conservative.
Then for almost a year, I dated a devout liberal, and it was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I learned not only to look past political views of other people but also to appreciate them and how they are different or similar to mine. Further, my worldviews were strengthened by how they were challenged.
How can I maintain my beliefs with other parts of my life?
You can still exercise your political muscle in ways other than action groups and political campaigns. Take the values that you believe in and find organizations that give you an opportunity to have those beliefs without them being either confirmed or criticized.
Find groups that aren’t inherently political.
Neutral ground is a great way to reach others and still maintain your own identity. Join an intramural team, a book club, or church group — you can meet all different kinds of people and even hold fast to your political leanings. I also have found that these sort of groups help alleviate some of the stress that goes hand in hand with being overtly political.
If you’re religious, find a bible study.
Even though churches get a bad rap for being ultra-conservative and traditional in their views, but if you go to biblically-based churches, you’ll find that most of the time, the church goes out of their way not to make remarks on current political events. You’ll find an active group of men and women who genuinely want the best for you.
Join an issue-specific activism group.
Rather than a vague liberal or conservative group, find an organization that focuses on one specific issue or combination of issues — even if the type of people that it attracts doesn’t necessarily align with your political views. For example, for a long time, I was active in a conservative group on my campus before I shifted to the center and also went to events our campus’ Amnesty International chapter hosted because I believed firmly in what the organization fights for even though it is often seen as a more liberal group.
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There is more to life
There is so much more to life than fickle politics. Instead of using your political views as your core identity or as a qualifier to who are, accept your political views as a piece of your personality, and don’t let them overshadow the rest of who you are.
Do you think that there is more to life than politics? How do you maintain your political views while also being a part of other groups? Let us know what you think in the comments below!