Szyperski: A liberal, a conservative and an independent walk into a familyWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
My mom has a theory that every generation has a major hurdle of acceptance it needs to clear. The hurdles generally have to do with a majority of the population learning to respect a certain natural discrepancy among us. Examples of hurdles past include racial integration, gender equality and, most recently, marriage equality. As we attempt to overcome our latest challenges individually and as a group (with some of us still trying to belatedly clear hurdles of the past), I can’t help but wonder what our next one will be.
I have a theory of my own. As we clear physical hurdles and social hurdles, my guess is that we are next poised to take on intellectual hurdles. My hope is that we will soon realize our society needs to learn to embrace conceptual differences and work toward intellectual equality.
I am not referring to IQs or standardized test scores or one’s general capacity for intellectual thought. I am more concerned with the way we think and how we view the world. More specifically, I am concerned with our seeming inability to accept those who hold different ideals. We currently have a superiority complex about those we disagree with.
My kids are growing up at a time when it is socially admissible to stereotype and write off large chunks of the population when it comes to political ideals.
They are growing up at a time when there are mainstream books with titles like “If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans,” and well-“liked” Facebook groups with names like “Americans Against the Republican Party.” Despite decades of pleas for tolerance of one another in our culture, we are still finding acceptable reasons to loathe our fellow Americans.
Hatred and disrespect for those who see the world from a different perspective seem to be considered safe based on the fact that one’s belief system may be dynamic over time (as opposed to the more static states of race and gender) and is, therefore, up for the bashing.
Perhaps this potential for change, unlike the pigmentation of one’s skin or the number of one’s X chromosomes, is also what keeps the one religion vs. another religion vs. no religion fire burning bright. We don’t technically have to be Jewish or Christian or Muslim or atheist, but we are born into a particular ethnic lineage or gender without much potential for conversion.
According to popular belief, we also don’t technically have to be conservative, liberal or something in between.
Yet, more and more studies seem to be aimed at proving that there is some hard-wiring involved that precludes us from entirely having a choice in the matter. Surprisingly, some of the studies seem to indicate that being hard-wired a particular way is somehow more favorable over another. Such subjective conclusions do not fit my understanding of science, but I may just be incorrectly wired to comprehend it.
From what I am already witnessing in my own three children, human beings do seem to come with some sort of prepackaged worldview mechanism.
At ages 3, 6 and 9, I already recognize a little liberal, a young conservative and a budding independent in my midst. I recognize certain qualities in them that lead me to believe they will view the world by leaning in a particular direction.
I have less concern about which way they will lean and much more concern about how they will interact with those facing in other directions. Regardless of their natural inclinations, my advice to them will be to at least visit their friends’ perspectives and be open to recognizing the elements they have in common. I hope they maintain a level of respect for other ideals and that they never sink to beginning a sentence with “If (insert political designation) had any brains …” (also see the words “moron,” “idiot” and “ignorant”).
It has been my experience that nature doesn’t make too many mistakes. Even things that seem in error often end in education. If the discrepancy in our political nature is, indeed, natural,
I can’t help but think that it is meant to be a lesson in coming together instead of a means to divide. If our history is any indication, the things that initially come between us are actually opportunities to bring us closer together.
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.
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