Recognizing our humanity cuts polarization

Aidan Everett

Whether by politics or plexiglass, the nation is divided. The flames of sociopolitical turmoil are quickly engulfing every aspect of daily life. Controversial issues such as mask-wearing, social and racial justice and the upcoming election are all breeding grounds for conflicting viewpoints. 

While it is good for a group of people to have differing opinions, it is also important to discuss these opinions in a reasonable manner. Unfortunately, much of the “debate” around these issues has been characterized by societal disruption instead of meaningful discussion. Rather than creating change, these only increase division. Isn’t the end we claim to seek unity and peace? 

With social media at the forefront of not only the documentation but also public discussion of these major issues, many interactions between individuals of opposing viewpoints happen through a screen and over platforms not designed to carry such complex weight. It makes it difficult to recognize the humanity of those on the other side of the aisle. Our duty as Catholics, however, is to rise above that challenge. 

One of God’s many gifts to humanity is that of free will. This free will allows man to dictate his own actions and formulate his own viewpoints and values. Free will, when used in accordance with God’s will and desire for humanity, allows man to not only choose what is right, but choose to see others as equal in dignity and recognize that every human deserves respect, as they are a child of God. 

However, when used improperly, one side dehumanizes the other, treating them as less than human. They deny them their liberty, the physical manifestation of free will. Not only is this unjust and unfair to the individual, but it is an insult. A human being has no right to deny another of a gift that was given to them by God. This is not to say that humanity’s use of free will is always necessarily correct. Almost immediately, man used his free will to disobey God in the Garden of Eden. However, just because humans don’t always use their free will correctly or always make the right decision doesn’t mean it should be stripped away from them. 

By respecting the humanity of the person they are arguing with, they are respecting God’s gifts and his creation. It isn’t necessary to respect their actual opinion, but rather the concept that others are allowed and able to formulate their own ideas on a topic.

In order to truly create change, both sides need to have a certain degree of respect for one another. When no respect exists, it becomes impossible to negotiate and thus impossible to progress. Neither side of any conflict is going to simply submit to every demand of the opposition and surrender all of theirs. In order to properly negotiate, both sides need to view each other as equals. Both sides need to acknowledge that, at their core, the other is exactly like them: human. Only then can actual change be made. The greatest advances in society have been made when people view each other as equals and actually collaborate. Inversely, the worst regressions and conflicts in human history have arisen when one group views itself as superior to the other. 

Recognition of the opposition’s humanity is crucial to not only a healthy society but a healthy soul. With the racial and political tension in American society becoming increasingly prevalent in everyday life, this idea is more important now than ever. As Catholics, we are called to love our neighbors, regardless of their views or political affiliation. 

For those of us who are teenagers, we will soon inherit these issues. We are the ones that are going to have to deal with them, and we need to learn from what is happening in the world today. We need to avoid making the same mistakes as those who have come before us. As we grow older and our influence in our communities and nation changes, we need to be sure to treat each other with respect when it comes to discussing our disagreements in a rational manner. 

Instead of acts of violence and hatred, we need mutual respect and love for one another. We need to look at each other through the eyes of Jesus Christ and recognize that while we may have different backgrounds, viewpoints and values, we are all human.

Aidan Everett is a senior at Subiaco Academy. He attends St. Michael Church in Van Buren.

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