I am of the dogged and often disappointing persuasion that most people are good. Regardless of background, belief or appearance, I think most people are pure in at least intent, if not action. Try as I might to be a pessimist, I just can’t help from thinking that most people share this view. The anger and ill intent we see as soon as we turn on the news or open Twitter does not stem from some sort of inherent human predisposition towards polarization, but it has been intentionally manipulated by those with something to gain by keeping us from realizing our commonalities. Instead of recognizing controversial issues as opportunities to create solutions, we have reduced every point of contention to a stark black or white.
It’s astounding how someone’s reaction to just a few buzzwords can tell you so much about their political leanings. Terms like Critical Race Theory, gun control and abortion have become so loaded and divorced from their original meanings that we are incapable of agreeing on common-sense solutions. Take, for example, the Mississippi justice system that allows domestic violence offenders to keep their guns. We know that guns increase the risk of homicide in a domestic dispute by 500%, yet the NRA has so deftly used propaganda to persuade many that these common-sense confiscations constitute a violation of the Second Amendment. This inflammatory terminology has real-world consequences when we forsake what is right for what is ideologically consistent.
In Mississippi especially, we have a set of shared values that transcend politics or ideology. Southern hospitality: that sense of community that tells us to care for our neighbors and use “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am.” If we were not constantly bombarded with intentionally divisive language, I believe we would have a much more compassionate state.
Most people think racism is wrong and have no problem with teaching their children that it is. It is only when propagandists sweep in with stories of shame and white guilt that we get the asinine educational bans we see coming out of Jackson. Ideology is keeping us from treating the people around us with dignity and respect, and we are failing to protect our neighbors out of a misplaced loyalty to an ideal that does not exist.
Author Roxanne Robinson wrote, “Rage allows us to forget our own humanity. Without rage, we will recognize another person as like ourselves.” The alienating language peddled by those who seek to manufacture rage for their own gain is causing us to forget our own humanity. I hope I am not mistaken when I say that most of us envision a future where everyone is treated with kindness and respect, where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed and where no one’s inherent worth is questioned. We cannot fall prey to those who obscure our shared goals with manipulated messages.
Katherine Broten is a junior majoring in economics and public policy leadership from Farmington, NM.