By Olivia Parashar ’22

We live in an age that has normalized political partisanship more than any other generation before it. Today, every thought, action, failure, and success has ties to one of the two massive parties that have separated the nation, mercilessly ripping the North and South apart so poignantly that there may as well be an infinitely-deep canyon between the two regions. The United States of America are no more; in its place are the Republican and Democrat States of America, united only in the belief that they alone are doing what is best to serve the national interest. Middle ground has all but been obliterated; one either stands to the left or the right of the divide. There is no bridge — how dare such a thing be proposed? Do moderates even care about the direction of the country? Do they have any goals at all?

Dissent is the key to democracy. This is an undisputed fact. Without dissent, citizens would be subservient to a totalitarian leader who would placate their basic needs while operating solely to achieve an undisputed personal agenda. America was founded by men and women who believed in standing up and speaking out, a core aspect of the national mentality that has shaped the direction of a number of movements focused on social progress and ultimately brought America to where it is today. Without dissent, the land of liberty would not exist.

Still, dissent upon deaf ears is like screaming into a void: Irrelevant. Useless. I would argue, then, that America was not founded on the principle of dissent but rather of debate — of voicing disagreement and listening to counter-arguments; of considering all sides; of building bridges. George Washington characterized the concept centuries ago, writing that the formation of political parties would only serve to “subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reigns of government […]” — the trap of polarization that America has fallen into only allows select individuals to profit while the people they lead continue to drift farther apart from their brothers and sisters across the rift. And to what end? For what reason? 

There is no excuse for the herd-like behavior of partisanship, and younger Americans are starting to realize this. The issue now is that the act of committing to a political party has become so cemented in tradition by prior generations that it seems nearly impossible to break out of the ideological system that has now become normal. 

So here I am. 

I believe that debate is the solution. I believe that small efforts (having open conversations with friends, joining the Debate Team) are the steel with which bridges across the rift will be built. I believe that the people — but most importantly, us, the youth — are the workers and engineers who will rebuild a middle ground. 

United we stand together, divided we fall. By revitalizing debate, we will bring the country back together again. 

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