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Double or nothing

| Monday, January 25, 2016

Everyone can agree that no two individuals have identical personalities or life experiences. Just think of all the unique people you have met at this one University. There are bizarre combinations of academics, athletes, musicians, artist, activists and entrepreneurs. Even the “Katies from a suburb of Chicago” can have completely different interests or ideologies. With so many unique individuals, multiple viewpoints are bound to develop.

So, why do there only seem to be two solutions to every problem?

Think about it. Guns or no guns. Immigration or no immigration. Taxes or no taxes. These are a few examples of the arguments that are analyzed over and over again on 24-hour news networks. However, for the amount of time spent talking about these issues, there seems to be very little progress toward reaching common ground. Just listen to the debate rhetoric or, better yet, scroll down your newsfeed. It is filled with empty language from two parties attempting to blame each other for our nation’s domestic problems. Why? Because it is way easier to point blame than it is to actually acknowledge and confront complex issues.

Therefore, the question isn’t, “How has this happened?” Rather, “Why are we constantly falling for this either/or attitude?”

The first reason is the opposing team mentalities that result from polarizing issues. For the same reason that Irish fans (justifiably) relate Michigan football to the Empire in Star Wars, people cling to their extreme stances on issues. Instead of displaying multiple views and attempting to find solutions, debate reviews are centered on who “won” and who “lost.” We even used the word “opponents” to describe those who challenge certain opinions. However, how can people be “opponents” if they are working toward solving the same issue? Unfortunately, the “us verse them” mindset appeals to our basic instinct to conquer instead of collaborate.

One of the most prominent repercussions of this team mentality approach is that unrelated issues can suddenly be lumped together. For example, if someone were passionate about universal healthcare, then people would automatically assume that they must also disagree with the NSA. However, these are two completely separate issues that deserve their own time and attention. Instead of determining issues based on the “team’s” ideals, people need to treat issues independent of political party or supporters.

This leads into my third reason why people choose extreme sides: people don’t have the resources or time to thoroughly explore issues. Known biases in the media make independent research almost impossible to achieve. Even the most well-written and reliable news agencies are blatantly biased. The media’s failure to present non-extremist solutions to national issues has further pushed people to choose these far-right or far-left views instead of exploring other, more reasonable options.

Clearly there is a problem with the way issues are being evaluated. So what steps can we, as college students, take to prevent ourselves from developing these tendencies?

First, we should approach issues with the mindset that people’s perspectives do not necessarily come from a place of hatred or ill will. A persisting example of this issue is the drone debate. While some people favor the use of drones because they protect our armed forces, others are concerned with its potential for abuse by law enforcement agencies. While they have different opinions, both sides are obviously trying to decide how to best protect the American people.

Second, we should acknowledge that opposing sides both make valid points. If people just disregard entire arguments because they disagree with a certain premise, a lasting solution will never be established. One individual or group cannot create a 100 percent effective solution to an issue, that’s why debate so fundamental to our democracy. People should welcome criticism in order to consider a wider realm of possibilities and solutions to difficult issues.

So, as the election season continues, instead of looking at issues as “double or nothing,” lets try to find actual solutions to the untreated problems festering in our nation. Throughout the semester, I will do my best to adhere to these suggestions and evaluate complex issues in a way that our current media fails to do.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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