Political definitions create political divisions

I had an interesting conversation in my honors seminar today. The professor asked our class of 12 if we considered ourselves “liberal.”

After looking around the table, most of us nodded our heads in affirmation. We considered ourselves open-minded individuals, we don’t automatically ascribe to our parents’ political views and, personally, I don’t see a problem with sharing prosperity to boost the government. And besides, at this campus, that word is thrown around so often that it’s not hard to be labeled one at some point in your college career.

How foolish of us to define ourselves in front of a political theory professor. And soon enough, words like “socialist,” “conservative” and even “communist” floated around as we grasped for definitions of our political alignment.

Our professor was quick to the whiteboard, redefining words we so confidently used in description; and, as usual, I realized I was wrong.

Popular culture, the media, the evolution of words and whatever else have morphed these words into connotations for a type of person and belief system. These words are then used to separate people and groups, who then turn and face their paralleled enemy (liberal is to conservative as Democrat is to Republican).

But why? Perhaps it is a ploy, as my professor hinted at. A ploy to create divisions when really, we are not all that different; we’re all American, we all have the same unified goal of bettering America.

The America we live in today has been labeled the most divided American public our history has seen. We can debate on anything and everything, no matter how irrelevant it is to the functionality of our government.

And when people are supplied words to define their differences in beliefs, whether they really have anything to do with the government, this only creates greater separation among us. Categorizing people by their political beliefs is a dangerous game to play when you don’t know what all the words mean.

Unfortunately, I’m not a political theory professor, nor do I completely grasp the concepts, but I only wish I could explain to you what was explained to me and my classmates. But what I can easily translate is that the words you hear on CNN or FOX to describe our political celebrities and characters aren’t really correct, which is only another testament to why you shouldn’t believe everything you hear.

Instead of focusing on words that define, perhaps we should drop those words that do nothing more than divide. Instead, we should look to focus on the methods to improve and grow, void of the idea source’s political affiliation.

They’re just words. It’s not a chair because you call it one; it’s a chair because you sit in it. So, what makes a liberal a liberal? If your definition is because they are not something else, that’s not really a definition at all, that’s a label placed to make descriptions convenient and Type-As content.

And sure, maybe this is an existential personal identity crisis (oh no, what do I define myself on Facebook?), but whether it’s because of incorrectly defined words, our culture is focusing far too much on the differences between Americans than the fact that we are all Americans.

 

SoRelle Wyckoff is the opinions editor of The Crimson White.

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