Today’s turbulent media fosters one of the greatest divisionary tools of our age: that of ideological factionalism. This supposed ideological war between the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ is nothing more than a distraction from actually dealing with the issues that we face. Look at any Facebook news post’s comment section or any political rally and you’re bound to see and hear sides being taken. While having an opinion on an issue and choosing a side is perfectly fine, there is a toxicity that has gradually built over time where ‘left’ and ‘right’ just can’t seem to find a common ground. There is no basis as to why they cannot.
The main reason I find these labels unhelpful is the lack of insight the people who tend to use them have as to what they mean. Casting all ‘right-wing’ followers as Nazis worshipping Trump, or all ‘left-wing’ followers as authoritarian communists worshipping Stalin is both incorrect and bizarre. For one, Trump is a businessman (a failed one at that). Ideology is simply a tool his administration, and the Democrats on the other side, uses to foment the masses to his cause. But what cause is that? Ideology doesn’t drive him; it’s the endless drive for fame and wealth. The political arena and the role of POTUS has been nothing but a massive business opportunity for him and his family, from Kushner’s investment in illegal Israeli settlements to foreign dignitaries staying in Trump hotels for official visits. And Stalin was simply a dictator. He had no ideology other than power, and that is not specific to any one branch of political thought. Comparing someone who leans in a particular direction on one or more issues to these extremes means nothing and creates unrealistic portrayals of people.
There are also some incredibly ambiguous claims made on both sides that simply do not have any backing. The obvious one in Australia is religion, where there are contradictory claims thrown at the ‘left’. The ‘left’ simultaneously hate religion (Christianity) and are willing to succumb to it as well (Sharia Law under Islamic rule). Some do indeed hate religion – all of it, not just Christianity, which just happens to be the prominent one in the West. But most on the ‘left’ do not hate religion, they just believe in the separation of church and state while being tolerant of different beliefs. It also leaves the idea of the ‘religious left’ an oxymoron, but there are many who would classify themselves as just that.
One the other side, it was touted during the 2016 US elections that the ‘right’ and any who voted for Trump where racist and sexist bigots. While true for a select portion of the American population, what about those of them who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012? Or voted for Bernie in the primaries? Yes, some people who voted for those two voted for Trump, but not for something as primitive as sexism. As stupid as it was, there was a sizeable percentage who did it as a protest vote against corruption in the Democratic Party, or following the slogans of hope and change (they weren’t exactly wrong, but they traded a shovel for an excavator to dig their grave with). A number of these people are experiencing buyer’s remorse for their choice of candidate, and while I’m not optimistic (when it comes to US politics I never am) it’s possible the Democrats might make a comeback this November. But lobbing these people who recognise their errors in with those who are fundamentally wrong leaves them alienated, and this furthers the divide.
This divide seems irreparable when you read some of the moronic and demeaning things people on both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ say to and about each other. It is a constant back and forth, with both sides using the same childish insults and condescending phrases, or even using left and right as the insult. With the warped perceptions of what these terms mean, such arguments go nowhere and leave the topic of debate at a standstill. Even if one side has the better point, it quickly collapses into a cesspool of ignorance. You could have the best argument for the most valid opinion in the world, but if you refuse to communicate appropriately and resort to insults then your opinion is no longer required in a civil debate.
When this is the face of both ‘factions’, expressing yourself as one or the other in a normal and acceptable manner seems impossible without undue retaliation. I have been involved in arguments (I won’t validate them by calling them ‘debates’) where I have been called a sexist/racist Trump supporter, and arguments where I have been called a retarded left greenie. So stating that in a just world both Trump and Clinton deserve to be locked up warrants insult and baseless accusations from everyone? What side am I on then? Maybe something a little more substantial than a 2D worldview.
People involved in these petty faction conflicts can stay there. Anyone who is serious about political discourse would do well to remove ‘left’ and ‘right’ from their terminology, thus removing the immediate stigma that comes attached with them. Debate issues on the merits of people’s arguments, not what ‘side’ such opinions may or may not belong to. Real discussion is needed, and the majority seem too pissed off or offended to even understand what that is.