Opinion: American society needs to bridge the divide caused by political polarization

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Kaitlyn Lavo

Nestor Vinelli (Left) and Ryanne Mena (right) pose for a photo illustration. Vinelli drapes the American flag across his shoulders and Mena drapes the progress pride flag across her shoulders. Photographed on Oct. 18, 2021 in Northridge, Calif.

Danny Solano, Reporter

Go to any social or televised media and you may think that recent events have created a radicalization of opinions — intertwining personal cultural beliefs with political ones, seemingly forming a large divide with two opposing sides.

The political right — the modern day boogeyman. Determined to restore America to its Golden Age when xenophobia, homophobia, and general ethnocentrism kept America great and safe.

The political left — the hero of the people. Spreading love and acceptance of all through democratic socialism, aiming to level the playing field for all Americans while leaving no one feeling left out or unwanted.

At least that seems to be the perception in the areas of the country controlled by Democrats. But travel a few miles and the story becomes flipped — the left is an elitist cult imposing its will on the nation, and attempting to dismantle the working Americans way of life.

Nestor Vinelli (Left) and Ryanne Mena (right) pose for a photo illustration. Vinelli drapes the American flag across his shoulders and Mena drapes the progress pride flag across her shoulders. Photographed on Oct. 18, 2021 in Northridge, Calif. (Kaitlyn Lavo)

How did we get to the point of such a drastic split in the political spectrum? Did we push too hard and too quickly in the fight to bring equality to the millions of people left in the shadows of society?

Perhaps the ground began to crack during the election of former President Barack Obama, where cries for proof of his citizenship rang out — and the ugly side of our nation reared its head.

While I thought we conquered that beast, with the Obama administration as a symbol of the peace we could have. I was wrong.

Nothing was conquered. It was quelled, waiting for a sign to re-emerge.

During her time with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Women’s Rights Project, former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked to include lesbian rights. But she chose to go with a slow approach strategy, feeling that it would be too much at once for the sitting Justices, and could undermine her argument. Too much too quickly can be detrimental, and it is very possible that we created our own enemy during our fight for equality.

The nation has made a lot of much needed progress in human rights over the last 100 years, but the fact remains that we are still very close to those troubled times in history.

In 1955, Emmett Till, a Black adolescent boy, was brutally murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman. He was beaten, mutilated and dumped in a river. At that time, current President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump were 12 years old and 9 years old, respectively.

In a single lifetime, we have gone from a nation that openly practiced hatred for others to normalizing different pronouns for people whose personal identity may not coincide with our perception of them. Of course that sort of progress is tremendous, but we must accept that the outdated perceptions of the past are still very fresh in the minds of many Americans.

And what is our reaction to the intolerance of those Americans? Well, of course we are intolerant of their intolerance, calling them “deplorables” and making jokes at their expense about the stupidity of their morals. We do this and wonder why they can’t see that our way is correct.

However, the pendulum swings both ways. The Right relishes calling the Left things like “softies,” “elitist morons” or “fascists” who are destroying the country through socialist ideals and weakening the pillars on which our country was founded.

Somewhere along the line both sides took on a “with us or against us” mindset, and that sort of black-and-white view of politics is not conducive to progress.

A Gallup survey found that more than 40% of the U.S. population identifies as Independent, yet we limit ourselves to siding with one of the other third of the nation.

Repeatedly, I’ve been asked if I believe in vaccines or wearing masks because I was presumed to be conservative. On the other hand, I’ve been accused of being a “softy liberal” because I believe in the gender gap and rights for the LGBTQIA community. No one can be a referee — all must pick a team.

It is possible that people exist who believe in abolishing systematic racism and yet do not support gay rights. Just as there are people that are anti-immigration but are not racist.

Growing up in South Central Los Angeles showed me that these types of people are real.

People aren’t painted solely in red or blue, but in shades of purple. The sooner we realize that, the faster we can stop antagonizing each other and cooperate to make change for the betterment of the nation.