Political views should help us get to know others

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Politics is deeply interwoven into our lives. In fact, political views are one of the ways in which we express our experiences and core values. As a student pursuing a minor in political science, I follow politics closely and have developed my own set of strong beliefs when people mention a controversial political topic. I tend to hesitate and find a way to dodge any questions directed toward myself about what I think. Why do I struggle with sharing my political views?

Apparently, I am not the only one who faces fear when confronted with political discussion. According to a 2020 survey conducted by the Cato Institute, 52% of liberals, 64% of moderates and 77% of conservatives feel they cannot openly share their political opinions. This study indicates that, in the current political climate, most people likely experience fear about sharing their political ideas.

This fear presumably stems from concern that people will view and treat us differently if they discover we hold a specific political view, particularly one that does not align with theirs. Many of us wish that we could voice our political views without negatively affecting the way in which a friend or acquaintance views us. 

Unfortunately, an indifferent response such as this is nearly impossible. As with any information that we absorb about another person, political opinions inevitably and subconsciously alter the way in which we view another individual. However, we need to develop a mindset that allows us to view this change as a positive or, at the very least, useful, aspect of interaction.

We rarely encounter someone with views identical to our own. Currently, the political divide is growing, leading to increasing polarization and less acceptance of differing views among friends and family. We must remember that disagreement does not and should not equate to disrespect. 

We should not allow political differences to stand in the way of friendship and, likewise, we should not allow fear to stand in the way of freely expressing our opinions. We can still care about and learn from those who have different values than us.

Although we try to separate political views from an individual, these beliefs often reflect much of what a person stands for, which is an important part of understanding each other. As listeners, we must learn to overcome political differences and, instead of viewing them as rifts, we must realize that sharing political views provides us with an opportunity to learn about and better understand an individual regardless of their alignment with our own ideals.

As individuals who have our own beliefs, we must learn to be confident and bold in sharing a dimension of who we are. We should not have to fear being honest with ourselves and those who are close to us. 

Perhaps if we strive to understand political discussion as a way to better understand other individuals, these discussions could pull us closer together regardless of how far apart we are on the political spectrum.

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