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Anti-Trump and Trump supporters clash at rally (Rosemary Ketchum/PEXELS)

Can Teens Unite the Divided States of America? [OPINION]

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“Trump deserves to die!” “Hillary should be in prison!”

This is what I hear in my high school lunchroom, and it’s upsetting. I can’t go anywhere without hearing the extreme and divisive views of my peers. America is trapped between two parties, and we can’t seem to find an escape.

Americans have always found a way to disagree — whether it’s over race and politics or how to make a peanut butter jelly sandwich. We can all find common ground when it comes to PB&J, but many people would rather turn a deaf ear than attempt to compromise with the opposite political party.

This is an illness that is infiltrating American society and poisoning our politics. According to a study by the PEW Research Center, “The differences between Republicans and Democrats on various hot-button issues have widened from 15 to 36 points in the last two decades. By contrast, division due to race, religion, age, and gender has remained fairly stable.”

Due to social media and parents ingraining one-sided views on controversial topics into the minds of young people, kids have developed the same divisive mindset that is poisoning the rest of America. This mindset extends past the ordinary political view of “I respect your opinion, so let’s have a civil debate.” Instead, teens are yelling at each other and expressing hatred for opinions that differ from their own. How can this be productive in a society where the younger generation is counted on for the success of future America?

Ever since the election of President George W. Bush in 2004, partisanship (a partisan is a committed member of a political party or political coalitions) throughout America, and especially in our government, has risen significantly. It has continued to rise since the election of President Donald Trump in 2016.

Outspoken presidents like Bush and Trump have compelled both sides of the political divide to speak out and remain unchanged in their beliefs. It has become almost impossible for both parties to find any common ground.

According to a recent survey conducted by Lynn Vavreck, a political science professor at the University of California, this political divide might even be affecting many young people’s social lives. “Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they wanted their son or daughter to marry a Democrat and 27 percent a Republican, leaving only 45 percent to say they didn’t care,” said Vavreck.

It’s safe to say that most parents would rather their kids not marry at all than be married to someone in the opposite political party. The loss of relationships that could have been is tragic.

Partisanship is not limited to society; the level of unwillingness to compromise with the opposite political party has surged in Congress. Most members of Congress care only about their party’s agenda and refuse to work with the other party. Congress can’t get anything done, simply because they don’t want to. They choose not to compromise. They choose to ignore the will of the people and instead prioritize the extreme views of their party. Due to increased gridlock and slowed legislation, Congress’s approval rating has dropped to 16 percent according to an August 2017 Gallup poll.

According to Politico, the 113th Congress (2013-2015) has been the least productive in terms of bills passed since World War II.  They have only passed 234 bills, which is an 18 percent decrease from the previous Congress and the majority of these bills were inconsequential with very little importance.

As the rate of bipartisanship (when opposing political parties find common ground through compromise) decreases, the threat of repeated government shutdowns increases, which can lead to millions of dollars of lost revenue.

The decrease in bipartisanship can be due to a lot of things. One is Trump’s divisive rhetoric; from a travel ban to a border wall, Trump continues to divide Americans. We should be building bridges instead. We should be uniting Americans, not categorizing them based on their political party and the stereotypes that go with it. We should be doing a lot of things, yet few get done.

The solution to this divide starts with today’s teens. We have a view on life that is open to many different cultures and perspectives. Don’t put up a wall every time someone says something that goes against what you believe. Try and find common ground and establish a connection with the person. You will be surprised at all the relationships and connections you can make with another human being if you keep an open mind. After all, we’re all we’ve got.

If America keeps traveling along this treacherous path of divisiveness and political violence, it may not be long until we can’t recognize ourselves. Differences aside, we are all Americans and should find a way to coexist and work together for the greater good.

Emory, 15, attends Walton High School.

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