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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Political Polarization of Heart and Mind

Prior to the 2012 Presidential Election, I was not particularly interested in politics. I was an appeaser and constantly avoided confrontation for fear of getting into an argument or someone disliking my views. Despite my non-confrontational past, the Republican Primaries enraged me. I was watching political commentary 24/7 on all three major news channels—from MSNBC to CNN to FoxNews. My views an opinions became increasingly polarized as I watched the audience at a Republic debate boo a gay soldier who, via video chat, asked the candidates if they supported the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT). I was appalled by the audience's boos and the candidates' bigoted responses. Rick Santorum claimed that sex—implying gay sex—has no place in the military, as if straight sex isn't everywhere and as if gay people were sex-craven animals. That moment revolutionized the way I thought about Republican politics and politicians.

I come from the liberal, heavily Democratic state of Massachusetts. Due to my upbringing, my natural inclination has always been to side with the Democrats, but I never realized how liberal I was until I became utterly dismayed by the way social issues were treated by Republican politicians, citizens, journalists, and pundits during the election. Despite how strongly I feel about gay rights and women's issues, I also recognize that I am just as partisan and polarized as the Republicans. I'm on the opposite side of each issue, but like social conservatives, I'm unwavering in my support for certain things. I can't "compromise" on a matter of equal rights because it's a no-brainer to me; in my mind, equality is not optional. I don't see my views on gay marriage changing anytime soon, especially because I'm gay myself and have a personal stake in the political fate of this issue. However, I do recognize that my uncompromising political views are just as polarizing and potentially damaging to the issue as a whole if I cannot respect the other side.

While I notice that the right and the left are becoming increasingly similar in their views about compromise, there are some fundamental problems in this country that are, indeed, either black or white. At times, I get frustrated with the pundits on MSNBC, even though I whole-heartedly agree with them, because they sound just as bad as their partisan counterparts on FoxNews. People who are not interested in politics or are disillusioned by the entire system shut each side off. How are things going to change if enthusiasm and confidence in our political process and media is low?

The other issue with these two partisan sides is that they base their logic on opposing sets of facts. Facts, by nature, are simply and irrefutably true. How can there be two sets of opposing facts? Who knows what to believe when the "truth" on the left and right are different things? Even someone like me, who is very politically knowledgable, doesn't know who or what to believe at times.

Despite the confusing and frustrating partisan state of our country, I have a visceral reaction to certain issues—some things are either "right" or "wrong," and the discussion of "facts" shouldn't enter the discussion. Experience is what matters when it comes to social issues like gay rights. Those who struggle with accepting gays out of fear of the unknown may change their views because they know a gay person, friend, or relative. Some may realize that they are gay themselves. These experiences are changing the issue from one based in "facts"—like right-wingers who think that if you are gay, there is some proof that you are automatically a pedophile—to an issue based on personal experience—through which people realize that gays are human beings like everyone else and are just as worthy of dignity.

Before I was entirely comfortable with my sexuality, my self-loathing homophobia caused me to believe that gay marriage was wrong and that marriage was a straight institution. However, the more I accepted myself, the more I realized that I and others like me are worthy of the dignity of equality. This change makes me proud, but it also turned me into the partisan Democrat that I am today.

-Mikayla Galvin


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