Relationships Threatened Through Hyper-Partisanship

Hidden in the depths of everyday life, it can strike at anytime, anywhere. No one has ever managed to fully flee from its scrutinizing eye. In many ways, the side of you it brings forth is the only side that many others hold of any importance—the side that will define you as friend or foe. It is the often dreaded political conversation. The one whose hand draws a line down the middle of any classroom, extra-curricular event, family reunion, or social gathering.

Despite being molded within the liberal arts education that is Boston College, the prospective diverse and multifaceted person we all strive to be is often reduced to one fiber of our being: which political party we identify with. Hyper-partisanship—a sharply polarized situation in which political parties are in fierce disagreement with each other—has spread among college students like an influenza, and the hopes for a cure are fleeting.

Here at BC, a microcosm for millennial communities everywhere, hyper-partisanship has played a major role in the clubs we decide to get involved in, the classes we decide to take, and the relationships, or lack thereof, we form with our peers. And this is a tragic setback to the atmosphere that we all desire to cultivate here. Being an institution that constantly promotes the ideal of students’ formations, it is time that this rampant ossification be recognized and discouraged.

If doubt lingers about the extreme degree of this partisanship, simply walk into any lecture and ask students their opinions of our current president. The ensuing reactions will be no less than volatile—and it is hard to imagine anything less than verbal warfare breaking out in what was before a neutral setting. Why does this hyper-partisanship seem to follow us at every turn? Certainly it is promulgated by each party’s leaders insistently spewing that the other side is full of corrupt, anti-intellectual reprobates who have no sense of the real problems in our country. Often missing is a basic appreciation of students as multifarious beings, who are much greater than the political beliefs they hold.

Holding true to the Jesuit ideal of being a well-rounded and diverse community, we must seek out those who seem disagreeable to us rather than turn them away. In terms of “the great conversation” that BC strives to foster here, it will soon be the sound of silence if we are unwilling to offer deference and genuine interest in what other students have to say. This foundational aspect of BC must be preserved through the expansion of each individual’s acceptance. We must engage those whose viewpoints leave us aghast, and converse as friends, directly challenging the polarization that divides us.

In the name of reflection, one of the defining aspects of a Jesuit education, we all must investigate who we have invited into our lives and who we have alienated due to differences in political taste. In the view of some, partisanship is natural, and people always flock to those they view as holding the same values and convictions. While this may be true, it is also evident that, surrounded by those exactly like us, we will never experience growth. If we only hear what we already believe, and nothing to counter it, how can we ever know if we are truly right? Furthermore, how can we ever refine these very beliefs and convictions if we adamantly refuse to listen to the most persuasive arguments against them? This way hyper-partisanship is stunting our growth and limiting our relationships that could be beneficial in our formation.

Aristotle states that, “Man is by nature a political animal,” and while politics may be central to the lives of all in the BC community, we must be willing to break down the barriers it has built around us. We must lend our ears to our peers, and never ostracize the people who hold the ideas that seem to threaten our own, but instead embrace the wonders that come with having a friend so different from us. Hyper-partisanship is threatening our friendships, our formation, and our community, and we must fight it with all the facets of ourselves. As we do so, surely we will come to realize how we have elevated ourselves and the Boston College community as a whole to the quintessence of bipartisanship and overall human formation.

Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor