ASU is one of the largest schools in the country, bringing in students with a wide array of backgrounds, ideals and beliefs. As such, the political climate seems to be as diverse as it is divisive.
Especially in the wake of a tragedy like the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, emotions run so hot in political discussions that some students feel that they cannot associate with people they disagree with. This is detrimental to campus culture and the political process.
However, this does not have to be the case. The climate could be much less antagonistic if students made an effort to understand their political opponents.
Understanding adversaries could reduce the divisiveness at ASU because students may see that many of their own political stances are based in personal beliefs instead of tangible evidence. First and foremost, understanding students' backgrounds may explain why their political beliefs differ.
Religion, for example, offers little to no objective truth, but can be a core factor in people's ideologies. Judah Waxelbaum, director of membership for ASU College Republicans, said that religion plays a role in this.
“A lot of (my political beliefs) stem from my religion," Waxelbaum said. "I’m a practicing Jew, and a lot of the conservative ideals actually closely align with the conservative ideas of Judaism."
In fact, religion may be one of the few determining factors for issues like abortion. Some religious people may believe in a soul that is given or created at conception, and therefore propose that abortion is wrong. On the other hand, a student who believes people are only defined by their biology would not see removing what they see as a clump of cells as unethical.
A disagreement over religious beliefs cannot be resolved but doesn’t typically create enemies at ASU. After all, the platform of the Democratic Party simultaneously includes pro-choice stance on abortion while preaching acceptance for all religions. Instead, the antagonism often stems from misattributing the underlying reasons for certain opinions.
Most pro-choice individuals see a distinction between an embryo and a baby but may not take into account that certain religions do not share this fundamental belief. Therefore, it is easy for a pro-choice individual to assume that the comparison between an embryo and a baby is a false equivalency intended to manipulate control over women’s bodies.
Conversely, a pro-life student may believe that those who are pro-choice are complacent with killing babies if they do not take differences in underlying beliefs into account.
Clearly, noticing how religious beliefs shaped other students' stances on abortion could dramatically reduce the antagonism between the two sides.
This concept extends beyond the issue of abortion. Even with convoluted issues, it is not uncommon to see students demonizing the other side or misattributing their beliefs.
Adrian Solares, a sophomore business law student involved in Young Democrats at ASU, said that perceptions of opponents' arguments are frequently exaggerated.
“Usually people don’t fall into very extreme categories,” Solares said. “But I believe that most of the arguments that are thrown out there are in the extremes.”
The most extreme viewpoints may receive the most attention but do not always reflect the majorities' beliefs. Gun control is no exception.
Despite being one of the world's most socioeconomically developed countries, the U.S. has the 31st highest rate of gun violence worldwide – eight times higher than our northerly neighbors. While an exact solution may not be apparent, is clear that the U.S. is facing a problem that requires bipartisan attention.
“Republicans are not okay with children dying from shootings,” Waxelbaum said.
But the belief that they are, or that Democrats desire the complete removal of the second amendment, prevents much needed change from occurring.
“Propagating arguments that do not actually show what the other side is saying hurts the discussion," Solares said.
In order to have a productive and civil discussion, it is necessary to understand other peoples' points of view. Even the most fundamental beliefs can be subjective, so it is critical to enter political conversations with an open mind.
A collective effort to do so could reduce the gridlocked, adversarial nature of the political discourse at ASU and create a more accepting environment for people of all backgrounds.
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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