How to Disrupt a Partisan Rage Fest
When does political discussion go from deconstructive to constructive?
Before 2020, I’d spent three years living abroad, in a place largely free of political polarization and where there was general harmony among the people. So when I came home, I was quickly overwhelmed with the deluge of politics I encountered at every turn. Everywhere around me, people were arguing — a war of words at its most animal level.
On Twitter — a perfect example of the peak of human unconsciousness — people go back and forth nonstop, defending and rebutting with trite party-standard arguments, which then devolve into personal attacks. Having been outside of the country for so long, it all seemed so pointless — a diversion. I started to understand that, in America, some people see arguing as a hobby. A way to pass the time. I think we can all agree that political arguments on Twitter are not a constructive use of time, but it’s the polarization that they represent which is more than just unconstructive; it’s actually deconstructive — perhaps the single biggest key to our country’s decline.
Political Arguments are a Black Hole to Productivity
It’s important to understand that the toxic political atmosphere in this country stems not from the actions of politicians themselves, but from the way we react to them. Rather than assessing a candidate on an action-by-action basis, we assess people with a blanket ideology, and then conflate each action that person takes with what is right within the framework of the ideology they ascribe to. Then we go online to fight against any person or statement which goes against the ideology of the candidate to whom we have pledged our support.
As a population, we’ve come to a point where we spend an egregious amount of time arguing over what we believe to be right, and very little time taking action to further our nation’s progress. Americans have confused rhetoric with action, and they then take their rhetoric to the streets and call it activism. Activism is not action; it’s mobilized rhetoric.
A nation must be productive to thrive — a concerted effort of all citizens to push for a unified goal: that of their countrymen and women’s well-being. But in the US, antagonizing the opposing political party has become more of a priority than national progress. On an individual level, it may seem like a win: “I’ve done well by defending the values of my party.” But a party is an abstract concept, and not objectively good. So by defending the values of a political party at the cost of national productivity, we are putting ourselves at an overall disadvantage on the global playing field.
Ultimately, this ever-widening partisan divide is what’s eating our country alive. Time, effort, and productivity are being drained for each polarized tweet sent, each partisan argument made. And on a national scale, it amounts to A LOT. People now dedicate their lives to a partisan agenda, start nonprofits to further that agenda, and fund campaigns to elect candidates who say things that align with it.
All partisan action is deconstructive towards the goal of a prosperous nation, because it exacerbates the division within the country, and becomes for the good of one party at the cost of the country as a whole.
That’s when I realized: the second epidemic in this country is not racism; it’s hyperpoliticization.
Is ignoring ignorance the best solution?
For a while, I thought the best solution to this form of ignorance was to ignore it. My experiences abroad allowed me to understand that being political is an option, and for those who choose it, it becomes almost an impediment to daily life. When we get political, we start to see things in black and white, politicizing things that, in principle, have nothing to do with government or politics, and in the process, drive a wedge between ourselves and our friends, family, and neighbors. So rather than dedicate time and effort to ideologies and abstract causes, I decided to focus on my well-being — improving one’s personal situation is the best way to make change in the community. Because ultimately, politics are fueled by ideologies, and ideologies are attempts to explain things that are too big and complicated to be fully understood. And the opposite of ideology is mindfulness — rather than focusing on the large and abstract, give more attention to your surroundings, the current moment, and your livelihood — the things you can change.
Thus, I retreated into a phase of mindfulness, accepting the things that I could not control, and focused on my well-being. If I did that, I thought, then the pool of collective ignorance will have that much less energy to fuel itself.
I ignored ignorance as much as I could for as long as possible.
But eventually, I started getting an itch, an overwhelming urge to share my understanding of politics as I understood it, based on my experiences outside of this two party context.
Is there any scenario when arguing politics is constructive?
I came back from living in a place that was much less politicized than here. But I didn’t realize that my understanding of life beyond politics could actually have the potential to cure this ignorance. By sharing my experiences from outside the polarized space of US politics, I realized I could start to generate constructive discussion on the nature of politics itself, as opposed to the generic partisan rage fest.
While, yes, all politics is unconstructive when it’s in the two-sided context, it is possible to intercept a toxic political dialogue with an external perspective that does not fall within that two-sided spectrum.
As such, ignoring ignorance is not always the best course of action. Instead, if you have a “third-party” perspective — a point of view stemming from outside the American two-party context — you can potential potentially defuse some of the toxicity of the partisan skirmish.
With this understanding, I’ve decided to break my silence and start sharing my experiences, and the insights I’ve gained as a result of them, in effort to bring our polarized political environment to a level where discussion becomes constructive, rather than deconstructive. Having lived in societies which do not fit into the American political spectrum means that I am able to view US politics as a sort of third-person spectator, rather than playing into the partisanship. And by presenting my spectator’s perspective, I can attempt to elevate the level of the argument itself so it becomes valuable to both sides.
Generally speaking, it may well be the best option to stay silent in a two-sided scenario, but if you have a third-side perspective, it’s your obligation to introduce it to two-sided arguments. In this way, you are not contributing to the division, nor are you draining your energy on ignorance and rhetoric; you are taking constructive action by elevating the level of discussion to a point where it can become useful to both sides.