Embracing Empathy: Creating a considerate political culture

As someone with with such strong political opinions I am learning how to be more empathetic and understanding.


by Kate Jones, Multimedia Editor

Often times when I hear someone is a republican, or someone is pro-life I immediately label them and put them in a box. It’s really hard for me to understand why someone would have a different opinion than me, because my opinion is obviously right and I will fall on the correct side of history.

As someone who is quite an extremist I tend to make blanket statements often. “She is homophobic so she is a terrible person,” or “She is a republican so she probably hates me because I am a Hillary supporter,” or “I don’t know if I can be friends with her because she is a Trump supporter.” Now I’m sure I’m not the only one who has said these statements and probably worse but, I have now exposed my truths so I can not turn back now.

Our world is becoming more and more divisive every day. Everything is political, and everyone has to take a side. America has long been a place of political partisanship but according to Pew Research center, now more than ever negative opinions of the opposite parties are “more widely held and intensely felt than in the past.”

This political polarization has lead to an incredibly toxic culture of isolationism. We need to push onward and create a more and more accepting and welcoming environment for all. This starts with empathy and understanding. Empathy is key to creating real and lasting change in our culture.

I more often than not fall victim to shutting down whenever someone says something that I don’t agree with. Instead of taking the time to listen and try to understand where that person is coming from, I immediately reject them and state my opinion, usually louder and more aggressively.

I can not name one time when trying to change people’s minds has worked through that method. In fact, it probably just fueled the opposition even more. My eyes were open to this idea of listening, learning and using empathy to find common ground with ‘the enemy’ by my very wise government teacher, Anne Papineau. One day after class she pulled me and a few others aside and said that she was disappointed in the rhetoric and way we talked about the politicians in our government. It’s interesting to me that the group of students she was talking to were the most politically active, and passionate in the class. After she told us this I realized what I had been doing, I’ve been taught from the adults in our lives, and on the television that the only way we can solve any problems is through speaking the loudest. The way our society, and government is lead is not working and that is clear. To change the way it works, or in this case doesn’t work we can not follow in the footsteps of our elders because so far their way hasn’t solved any problems. We have to create a culture of loving one another no matter what their political belief, race, sexual orientation, or gender preference is.

Listening is the first step to finding common ground amongst us. When Valerie Kaur came to talk to STA, I could tell from watching my fellow classmates that she really struck a chord with a lot of people. From listening to her story and her incredible advice I really think that she will leave a lasting impact on our community. She talked about how listening to other people’s stories to understand where their thought process is coming from helps create a culture of understanding. We should all take this advice and carry it with us throughout our lives.

There is a lot of hate in this world, and I’m not saying that empathy is going to solve all of the worlds problems but I do think that empathy is a good first step that we can take to change the way our world is working.