They say ignorance is bliss. I think they’re right, but only because we’re all so ignorant that when we finally manage to see the light, while everyone else is still blinded, it inspires loneliness and helplessness that cannot be measured. In the 90’s we were told how the World Wide Web would be a revolutionary tool, allowing information to span the far reaches of the globe within seconds. This was also true in a sense, but like any tool, the outcome is dependent on the operator. Instead of enlightening us in some way, we created a way to transmit our ignorance to anyone willing to listen, many of whom don’t know any better. It seems social media, in particular, has become the cesspool of the internet, where all of humanities ignorance congregates in a display that would cause the eyes to bleed of anyone who values critical thinking and logical conclusions. Instead of using the knowledge and experiences of others to expand our thinking, perfected algorithms have enabled us to create echo chambers to protect us from the pains of inevitable cognitive dissonance, in the event we are faced with opposing views. God Forbid.
The more we explore confirmation bias, the more we delude ourselves into believing most people are on our side, and the rest are poor ignorant snowflakes or the embodiment of Hitler. Pick your poison. What we don’t realize is we are all equally ignorant. The fact that we play right into the old divide and conquer tactic is proof positive of that. What side are you on? Are you Republican or Democrat? Are you pro-life or pro-choice? Are you Black Lives Matter or Thin Blue Line? Anti-immigration or open borders? LGBT rights, or Traditional Marriage? These examples are merely the tip of the iceberg, but they all beg the question. Why are we only given two sides to so many critical issues in society that often has far too much gray area to be so simple? Why are we always at ends with this other side, who is always evil and attempting to victimize us in some way? Why is it that whenever something doesn’t go our way, the other side is always to blame, even though it’s clear regardless of who is in charge, the status quo remains?
Of the above examples, lets elaborate on immigration, in an effort to show how regardless of which topic we choose, the pattern is the same. With Trump occupying The White House, immigration has become a huge talking point. Conservatives will use any argument they can think of to advocate for the deportation of illegal immigrants. “They are criminals. They take government money. They are taking jobs away from Americans.” Liberals, on the other hand, will use any argument they can think of to allow immigrants to come to the US freely and allow illegals a path to citizenship. “Everyone deserves the American Dream. They are just people who want a better life. It’s racist.” Neither of these opinions is inherently right or wrong. They are opinions, not facts. If there’s one thing that both sides of any issue have in common, its the innate ability to dehumanize the other side, and completely ignore the facts of reality. The reality is, during Obama’s 8 years in office he deported more immigrants than any other president that preceded him. In fact, he deported more immigrants than all president’s COMBINED in the 20th century. He was pretty famously labeled “Deporter in Chief.” I use the term famously loosely, as it doesn’t matter what everyone called you if no one remembers.
Shockingly, during Obama’s term, conservatives did not flock to the streets to praise him for doing something about the immigration problem. And likewise, liberals were not protesting in the thousands about how it was horrible to deport immigrants. Even now, when it would benefit them and their argument, conservatives still don’t bring out the smoking gun. That Trump is just doing what Obama did for the last 8 years. Why didn’t you care before? Why do you only care now, that “your side” isn’t in office? And why do conservatives not praise Obama for his policy on immigration? Why does the letter next to a politicians name have such weight on whether or not we support their actions? Life is not black and white. Neither are many of the issues at hand in society today. Yet we desire simplicity so badly that we allow ourselves to live in the delusion that there are only two ways to see an issue, and eventually you have to pick a side. Once you have the belief that one side is right and another is wrong, it becomes easy to be dismissive and dehumanizing when it comes to the other group.
This demonization of those with a differing opinion is not limited to the left/right paradigm. Libertarians are just as guilty, and willing to metaphorically eat their own when someone presents a view that isn’t libertarian enough. We all have different life experiences. We have all lived through various trials and tribulations that have given us the understanding of the world that we hold today. You can’t expect someone who has lived a completely different life from you to think exactly the way you think. That is not a reasonable expectation. Instead, we should utilize our ability to communicate with anyone, anywhere, anytime, to try and learn and understand their perspective, and what experiences they’ve had that brought them to their conclusion. We should understand that our knowledge always has been, and always will be limited. We should be strong in our convictions, but also be open to new information, or a new point of view. Maybe it won’t change your opinion, maybe it will. But we should be able to have enough respect for the person across from us to understand they are a human being, and that them having an opinion that’s different from yours doesn’t somehow make them less than you. It doesn’t make them your enemy. It doesn’t make you a victim. There is another party to blame, and it is not the “other side.”
If you feel you are victimized in today’s society, you need not look any further than to those who would have you believe that there are only two sides. Who wants you to think you’re a victim, and that they are not the ones responsible for your victimization. The ones who will give you someone to point the finger at, when things don’t go as you think they should. The ones who will omit the details, so you get a narrative of events that fit your confirmation bias. Individual people with individual opinions are not restricting your ability to live your life as you see fit. You may run into someone who is more vocal about their detest for your life choices, but how we let that affect us is solely on us. They are not keeping us from doing what we want, and we are not responsible or required to meet their expectations. The more we become distracted fighting amongst each other, the less we focus on those doing the distracting. Those truly implementing control over how we live our lives, truly violating our privacy and our rights.
We have allowed our government too much-unsupervised authority. We have almost 800 military bases in over 70 countries. In 2016 alone we dropped 26,172 bombs in 7 different countries. Wikileaks document releases proved that there has been an NSA like agency deep within the CIA, that not only keeps records of all Americans communications but that they have the ability to hack into nearly any modern electronic device remotely to listen and record conversations. They can lock you up indefinitely without trial if they SUSPECT you MIGHT have associations with terrorists. They can take away your right vote and own a firearm, by slapping non-violent offenders with felonies left and right. They have killed our own citizens. They use our money to bailout banks that left us in hardship, while the struggle for the average American gets more difficult year after year. They print money, devaluing what little we have. They continue to push the boundaries of acceptability, and we continue to let them get away with it. This is not the fault of the “other side.” If it were, things would change everytime your side won the election. It does not. Things will never change as long as we continue to play right into their divide and conquer rhetoric. They will only get worse.