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Listening and Open-mindedness is Lost on Americans


Omair Ali

Perspectives Editor

America’s political climate is a dumpster fire and the nation’s social stability appears to be declining. People face worsening public safety, exacerbating public health crises, rising hate crimes, and possibly declining social mobility. Today’s political system and capitalistic economy are too cumbersome to efficiently handle America’s strife. This is evidenced by the political divisiveness in Washington and unresolved disparities in access to essential commodities such as health care. There is also great concern about the public sphere’s incompetency in dealing with current social tension.

The eruption of disagreements among people has contributed to the overall stagnancy in social reform efforts. In the political context, social media platforms have become irredeemable cesspools where trolling, group-think, and ignorance are commonplace. During the 2016 election, many people lost friendships from political differences that surfaced online. At universities, tension has risen as students, faculty and school officials argue over what political views can be expressed on their campuses. Political demonstrations have also incited violent clashes. Given this hodgepodge of political opinions and conflicts, America lacks an agency that could stop group polarization and promote mutual understanding.

Perhaps the American people’s pathological tendency to not listen to one another also contributes to this strife. The typical American has biases that impair their awareness of the world around him, which may include: egocentric bias, belief perseverance, and confirmation bias. Instead, these biases bring people closer to their own opinions while encouraging the marginalization of other different opinions. The inappropriate portrayal of such biases in the public sphere has agitated people, as seen in the Trump-media drama.

Americans need to listen more and become open-minded. Photo Credit: http://www.acneeinstein.com

Today’s social volatility warrants significant reform, but it is meaningless to solely place faith in the future of American politics. Instead, people must build connections with others through fairness, where everyone receives acknowledgement and respect for their views— if they are based in human dignity. Fairness can only be established when people open their minds to others’ opinions and concerns by listening attentively. Only through listening and dialogue can people come to a better understanding of this strife, in the hope that plans can be devised to advance social reform.

If you would like to follow-up with the writer with any comments about this article, you may reach him by email at Omair_Ali@ben.edu