During the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in United States History, Americans still had hope in their country. To modern-day Americans, this might seem quite surprising, considering the 1930s were a time of trepidation and poverty. However, Americans during the 1930s had faith in each other, and they had faith in their leaders. They heard stories of people pulling themselves up from poverty and believed they could do the same. And many did. As a nation, we pulled ourselves through the troublesome Great Depression, through a brutal second world war, through the frightening Cold War, and through divisive social issues such as the Women’s Rights and the Civil Rights Movements. Now, it seems as though these same issues are whirling back. But this time, I am worried we will not be able to pull ourselves through. Crises bring people together, but today there seem to be so many comparatively smaller crises, such as natural disasters, terrorist shootings, and social divisions, that we are drowning in the chaos. But that is not why we cannot rise up above the issues. Simply put, it is because everyone seems to hate each other. It is no secret: political polarization is threatening the our nation’s ability to progress.
Polarization is far more than party rivalries, debates, or disagreements. I have been involved in countless debates, whether in Junior State of America, Model UN, Congressional debate, or with friends and family, and they are often are a back and forth of “I am right, you are wrong.” In theory, we learn to appreciate both sides despite this mentality. In the real world, however, many do not appreciate both sides. So many Americans shun, reject, and hate other Americans who do not share their ideology. In fact, a study reported by the Atlantic in 2012 found that 40% of Americans oppose party intermarriage in comparison to only 5% in 1960. It is no longer a matter of Democrat versus Republican or Republican versus Democrat. It is a matter of Right versus Wrong, Moral versus Immoral, and Virtue versus Evil. People associate opinions which differ from their own on how our country should be run with immorality. So many Americans are “rooting” for their political party without looking at the issues facing our nation through an unbiased lens.