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Tutterrow: Today’s polarization, a product of lack of effort and respect

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The increased polarization in America has spread to younger generations partly due to unproductive and disrespectful communication practices.

America’s No. 1 issue today is its increasing polarization in politics, which, ironically enough, is the only thing all parties can agree upon. No matter who you speak to, classmate, crazy aunt or senator, all parties agree that there is a communication issue at the source of our domestic politics. It’s a scary thought.

As a new generation of Americans who grew up with broader access to freedom of speech and a staunch focus on said freedoms, it is both compelling and devastating to see the reinforcement of this divide reaching ourselves and our peers.

In classes growing up, we were encouraged to engage in open discussions, seminars and respectful active listening. This was an early attempt to create habits of listening and hearing others before speaking our opinions, fostering a respectful discourse environment.

Despite this, I find it more and more common each day that people who are steadfast in their beliefs effectively tune out others and then beg for their perspective to be heard as if that is how humans productively interact.

Earlier this semester, I came across a flyer for Young Americans for Freedom hosting Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles here at Clemson University.

As it was intended to, the headline of this event stuck out to me. I was intrigued to see what Knowles could have to say about this topic that would make for a relevant conversation. So, ahead of the event, I looked up Knowles’ past deliverances of this speech and came across his appearance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Though I cannot say that I agree with the message of his speech, or at least the parts that he was able to give, the thing that stuck out to me most of all was the disrespect from the audience, not the questionable message from Knowles.

Even after the speaker offered an open discussion after the speech, some of the crowd still chose to mimic and mock him while he was trying to speak. These interruptions served to both ineffectively get any message across and lower the chances that he would empathize with any point the people in the crowd were attempting to make.

Even more disheartening about this interaction was that the crowd was advocating for the respect and acknowledgment of trans people while simultaneously displaying that these are not necessarily values that they hold highly in themselves, as they chose to disrespect the speaker.

I understand that these issues are sensitive and important. However, for anything productive to occur, one must be open to conversations and inform one another of opposing perspectives to find a middle ground or commonalities.

One speaker at a university is not actively making any change or legislation at the present moment, but productive conversation can spark new perspectives rather than growing hatred.

However, the problem goes both ways. To stick with this example, the poster for this event depicts a smug man smoking a cigar under large words: “Men are not women” written in all caps, inviting controversy to ensue.

Many of our politically oriented organizations have done similar things in the past. For example, some have set up demonstrations and invited speakers that they know will create an uproar, fueling the publicity that they know they will get from it and the opposition they know will follow.

Whatever happened to open conversations with people who wanted to learn from others and hear new perspectives? Since we can create this sort of respectful interaction within a classroom setting week after week, why is it so difficult to listen to one another?

The lack of open communication is an issue relevant not only to university students within our generation but also across social media platforms. We have chosen to take the most extensive communication tool in history and use it to curate feeds with ideas we would like to see and shame others for not feeling the same way we do within our bubble.

This argument is in no way promoting that people never speak out on what they believe in or oppose actions that they think are problematic; however, it is essential to be mindful of the significance of promoting productive conversations and hearing both sides of an issue.

The willingness to listen before responding has become an impossible task from both sides of the aisle in today’s society. As a new generation, we have been tasked to break this cycle of polarization and learn how to be productive in communication at a personal and political level.

Kylie Tutterrow is a sophomore political science major from Spartanburg, South Carolina. Kylie can be reached at [email protected].

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Kylie Tutterrow, Opinion Editor
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    SamDec 4, 2023 at 6:05 pm

    In my opinion for some of these issues there is no middle ground. Therefore, there can be no compromise.