Keep an Open Mind
As the campaign trail blazes on and nears its last spark, immigration continues to be the fuel that ignites debates among candidates and their agitators. The topic of immigration is no stranger to the political campaign--immigrants are historically the spotlight of scrutiny, economic blame, and racial tensions in the United States. Nativism is nothing new to the United States. In 1882, President Arthur used the Chinese in the same way that business mogul Donald Trump is currently using Muslims. According to these two politicians, the threats to jobs, security, and the very moral fiber of the country would be solved if we could ensure that the purity of the United States’ nationalities be preserved.
The crazed rhetoric we are seeing now is not a recent occurrence, but a result from trends in xenophobia that arise according to history, current threats, and international events. Fear is a motivator--no doubt--but, as college students, we have a unique opportunity to turn this around. Our young minds can enable us to challenge our impulses to vote according to emotions. We are creatures of habit and each come to college with preconceived political opinions, but the biggest disservice we can do to ourselves is to stagnate ourselves and not allow our surroundings to challenge our preexisting ideologies. Just as the environment we lived in before coming to college caused our worldview to be what it is, we can just as easily allow the new externalities that surround us to affect us positively and inform our opinions as independent young adults.
Many of our predecessors’ mistakes could have been corrected if they had listened to the other side and truly allowed themselves to listen in a sincere manner. We are not politicians in D.C., but can benefit from learning to be open minded as college students. Below are the best ways to do so:
1. Sit by a person or a group of people in the cafeteria who you would normally not socialize with and actually listen. Extra points for sitting by somebody that you constantly disagree with in class.
You have nothing to lose from this and can learn about their points of view. Let the conversation flow and see how easy it is to empathize with them and their frame of mind next time you want to disagree in class.
2. Disconnect for a while and sit in your school’s quad--get off your phone.
Watch others and the ways that they interact within their respective niches. This can easily show you the different cultures that exist on your campus. Do they all behave in the same ways? Do some of the attitudes and actions represented incite fear or happiness within you? Explore that and ask yourself why.
3. Ask the professor who has challenged you the most ideologically to have a meeting one-on-one.
Ask about their background story. Get to know them as real people and understand why they decided to become professors. You will learn a valuable lesson here--you do not have to like somebody to respect where they are coming from.
Although simple, these three steps all show different aspects of our political makeup. The group of people in step one are the outsiders who many see as undesirable. Upon listening to them and their personal stories, they are humanized and become much more than their polarizing viewpoints. In step 2, you become the outsider and understand that others’ behaviors do not always necessarily match up with your expectations. Professors are the politicians in this scenario. They have a position of power over you, thus, you owe them respect but are still allowed to disagree with them. You quickly realize that they have their own narrative, too, and that their viewpoints stem from that, as well--which makes you question your story and frame of mind. Hopefully now you see the great power that our generation has at its disposal. If we do not challenge ourselves to see things differently, we run the risk of repeating our mistakes and losing what is of the essence of the American fiber: strong innovators who want nothing but inclusion, understanding, and opportunity.
The Washington Post