Thursday, September 23, 2021

Perspective change can help mend divide

In a world where groups of people are being targeted for no good reason, empathy is desperately needed throughout the world to better understand one another.

Various individuals and groups of people have felt threatened since before Donald Trump took office. Now, these people are even more terrified of what can come next.

It’s easy to dismiss what’s going on in our country because it’s not changing your life personally, but being empathetic can help mend the current national divide.

As someone who isn’t being targeted by Trump and his administration, I want to be able to understand how others are feeling in this time of peril.

When my uncle asked me over the winter break why I thought Barack Obama was a good president, I mentioned Obamacare and all the good it did for people across the country. He quickly rebutted saying I wasn’t personally affected by Obamacare. I agreed but said it didn’t matter if I wasn’t affected because it was still a positive change.

I am not a Trump supporter. Anyone who knows me, knows that. I voice that freely and proudly to the annoyance of my roommates. And because I feel this way, it’s hard for me to step into the shoes of a Trump supporter, but I’m starting to try.

In a recent New York Times article, female Trump supporters gave their reasons for voting for Trump. Some of the women said they thought Trump’s extensive knowledge of “how to build things” would be help the country. Others had concerns about immigration or they believed Trump is honest with the people and he will get the country “back on track,” according to the article.

When you think about their reasons, they are somewhat justifiable. Most of the women explained their desire for safety and stability, which most people can agree on. I don’t agree with all the things the women said, but I can try my best to see where they are coming from and listen to their thoughts.

Being empathetic is the first step in becoming a more accepting and understanding person. When you try to put yourself in someone’s shoes, you have a better chance of having a meaningful conversation without picking sides and hating the other.

Author and sociologist Arlie Hochschild is a liberal from California who spent five years living in Louisiana to better understand how conservatives think. After five years, she felt she had a much better understanding of how the individuals viewed the country and said her own political views did not waiver.

“I’m exactly, politically, the same person I was five years ago,” she said. “But it enables you to do your thinking with more understanding.”

Hochschild believes “feelings and empathy open up a deeper level of thinking.” She thinks being able to relate to others is the key to creating change.

Talking to friends and classmates about the current state of our country shouldn’t make you want to get uncomfortable and change the subject. Talking about the lives of millions being negatively affected should encourage more people to stand up and do something to help.

Talk about refugees who are dying because they have nowhere to live. Talk about people who could possibly be separated from their families because of an immigration ban. Talk about the millions of men, women and children who are losing health care access with no immediate replacement. Feel something because without compassion and open minds, we will remain divided.

Email Laura Schmidt at

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