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The dangers of political echo chambers, despite affiliations

 

A lot of people who grow up in liberal echo chambers like Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have also grown up in a liberal family. Now they are at Lewis & Clark which is, if anything different, probably more liberal than where they came from. In contrast, my family is actually pretty conservative, despite being from the Bay Area in California. I spent years morphing from identifying as conservative to libertarian to liberal because I was presented with both conservative views from my parents and liberal views from my peers.

It was not until I was well into high school that I began to realize that my beliefs on issues like gay marriage were actually no longer congruent with the beliefs held by my parents — especially when only a few years prior, I had still been repeating their reasons for voting against the legalisation of gay marriage to my friends whose parents voted the opposite.

I grew up repeating what my conservative parents said without questioning anything, like most all of us do when we are young. I think that the difference between my experience and many people at this school is that many of the people here grew up around parents who already had liberal beliefs. They repeated things just like I did, but some of them probably never had to consider the other side or necessarily ever question their beliefs. So how did I go from having conservative beliefs to liberal beliefs? By questioning my beliefs and values whenever I was exposed to new information.

I think that keeping an open mind when one is exposed to new information is one of the most valuable things one can do. Question everything. Be skeptical of your own views, not just the views held by people who identify differently than yourself. We cannot find common ground if we are not willing to listen. It can be hard to give up beliefs that you have held for years and I think that we all, at least in some cases, will do just about anything to hold onto our beliefs before giving them up. We would often rather argue past one another than consider the idea that we might actually be the ones who are wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, it can be hard sometimes to go home to a conservative household after living where one’s values are constantly confirmed. It is also frustrating to see our government shut down because the parties in our system cannot find a compromise. It would be easy to be defensive and shout at them about how they are taking away my rights and the rights of others. It is much harder to listen and try to understand.

However, just because both sides may make some decent points does not mean that there are not problematic parts of both sides. In echo chambers, liberal or conservative, we are constantly told that one side is right and one side is wrong. In the Pacific Northwest, any view deemed conservative is demonized and any view deemed liberal is praised. This mindset that all things conservative are bad really helps us mindlessly accept liberal views and never question anything. But we should question them.

Consider that liberal might not always be right and that maybe conservatives are not all “evil.” Try to challenge yourself to switch up your sources on obtaining news and looking at sources that lean conservative if you are liberal, or vice versa. Try looking at papers that have a conservative lean, but not a radically conservative lean (e.g. Wall Street Journal vs. Breitbart). I’m definitely not saying that you need to accept all conservative views, but I am saying not to blindly accept liberal views while not giving some conservative views a chance.

 

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