Schachter: Politics have become too personal

Leah Schachter, Staff Writer

Your opinion is your business. Or rather, it used to be. It used to be that if you thought the president was a communist dictator, and I thought they were the savior of our planet, we could meet up over coffee and discuss our opinions. You might tell me about the imminent implosion of the universe as we know it, and then I might explain why people will become immortal. However, this is no longer the case. Dinner table conversations can no longer contain any politics; political opinions lead to debate, not conversation. We take offense at each other’s political opinions, rather than listen to their insight.

During the 2016 elections, every family affair was a battleground, including my own. For example, my uncles were rabidly pro-Donald Trump; they practically had “Make America Great Again” tattooed on their pinkies. Other members of my family hated Trump with every fiber of their being. My sister asked one of my uncles, ”Why do you like Trump?” She was trying to have a conversation about Trump’s political platform, but his response was, “he’s going to ‘Make America Great Again.’” She tried again, “Is it his plans for creating jobs, platform on healthcare, immigration?” Again, my uncle responded, “He’s going to ‘Make America Great Again.’” It was personal, not ideological. My uncle didn’t like Trump because of Trump’s political platform; he liked Trump because he liked Trump.

Why have politics become so personal? Why can’t we discuss political issues on an intellectual level without disagreeing with each other on a personal level? When we make politics personal, we lose the fundamentals of political platforms and policies to the personal emotions attached to it. Our votes are biased and impulsive. Our political opinions are tied up with what’s “woke” or trending, not necessarily what’s true.

Last May, the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) wrote a letter imploring the Butler University community to stop shaming the SJP for their political beliefs. They were tired of having their anti-Israel platform called racist and anti-Semitic, and they felt that they were being personally attacked for their feelings towards Israel. Through their letter, they asked their fellow students to separate their personal opinions from their political ones and respect them as people. But there’s another side to that coin. In the past few months, social media has exploded with attacks on Israel. During this time, when there were severe hostilities between Israel and Palestine, Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot tweeted a prayer for the safety of her home country of Israel, as well as its neighbor, Palestine. In response to this tweet, social media blew up with hate comments directed towards Gadot. Her association and support of Israel was judged harshly and led to her voice being portrayed in a negative light in the online community; they tore her down as a person. Although they were on different sides of the conflict, both the SJP and Gadot were making a personal plea. 

We have to make an effort to separate our political ideas from our social and individual ones. How can we judge a person for worrying about her relatives and neighbors in her native country? It seems that the current political climate has caused us to lose sight of the humanity in each other. Presidential debates shouldn’t be about name-calling and dirt-throwing; they should be about politics. Dinner table conversations shouldn’t make you want to throw a table at your 65-year-old uncle; they should make you think, discuss and debate. And finally, a grieving woman shouldn’t fill you with hate; instead, it should fill you with compassion and comradeship. After all, the world is complicated, and the truth isn’t usually showcased in headlines. So, let’s take a couple of steps back from our preconceived notions of who is right or wrong, guilty or innocent, and turn your next political conversation into a discussion rather than a statement. You may be surprised by how your opinion develops.