Have you ever been to a college football game? I don’t even like crowds, and yet there is something exhilarating about hanging out with 50,000 of your fellow fans, rooting for your team. The conflict is set, the stakes are clear. At the end of the evening, you’ll emerge victorious, or you won’t. But there’s always next season.
It’s especially fun in the student section, where enthusiasm is at its highest. You’re all on the same side, rejoicing at each first down, groaning over every fumble. If a call goes against your team, you all agree it was a bad call, because it’s your team, even if the replay does rather look as though the knee touched the ground. It’s all in good fun, because at the end of the day, it’s just football.
But I’m seeing the same behavior when it comes to politics. There is this bitter rivalry between the two parties, and everyone’s expected to root for the home team. Everything my party does is good, everything your party does is evil. Don’t show me the replay, because I don’t care. I’ll believe what my friends believe, because we’re on the same side.
Is it truly unimaginable that a person who believes women should make their own choices on abortion can also believe high corporate taxes are bad for job growth? Or that we spend too much on welfare and not enough on alternative energy research, or vice versa?
When a controversy pops up, do we really consider the implications, or do we blindly believe or dismiss information based on what our friends are saying? After all, if something is controversial, it usually means there are strong arguments on both sides. Hardy anyone’s against home-grown tomatoes or puppies.
It’s fine to have opinions. It’s fine to share opinions with friends. It’s not fine to marginalize or insult everyone who has a different opinion, especially when we haven’t researched the issue ourselves. Headlines aren’t a sound basis for policy-building.
If we want to vow unquestioned loyalty to the home team, there’s always football.
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