Two Parties Give Me Anxiety

When it comes to politics, factions are unavoidable. No matter where you look, bar certain monarchies and dictatorships, parties govern the political game. And not to bash parties, they serve as a means of bringing likeminded people together to support a representative for their ideals. However, there will always be compromises made; no two people will ever agree precisely on every single issue, such is human nature. In a nation of over 300 million people, how can a mere two parties efficiently represent the population?

The two party system in the US is a problem that needs to be solved. Not only does it fail to effectively represent the minds of the nation, but it creates unnecessary classism and ill-content amongst the American people. With only two major parties, much political rhetoric is reserved for attacking the other party’s position, causing useless bickering and infighting. When they should be focusing on accurately embodying the will of the people, candidates are instead creating quotes defacing the opposition’s ability to govern, and slandering the other side for any and everything they can.

Aside from pitting parts of the nation against each other (just look at any map on election night and you’ll see stark borders between supposed red and blue states), the two party system does a terrible job at representing the opinions of the people. If there are only two candidates to choose between, voters are left with little choice, and are sometimes forced to vote for the lesser of two evils simply to keep someone else out of office. Much of this is down to the voting system we have in place.

First-past-the-post voting, or FPTP, is an inefficient and unrepresentative way to elect officials. In this system, you can vote for one candidate, and only one candidate. The person who gets the most votes wins. Simplistic, and stupid. CGP Grey excellently outlines the shortcomings of FPTP in a video on his YouTube channel, and explains how a two party system is unavoidable in this case. In another video, he talks about the alternative vote, a still flawed, but wholly more representative way to carry out elections. In this system, voters rank their choices in order of preference, and votes for less popular candidates are divvied up amongst the more popular ones on account of the voters’ rankings. In essence, you can vote first for the party or candidate, regardless of size or popularity, and still keep votes away from disliked options.

While still not perfect, the alternative vote offers a better option than our current FPTP system. It allows people to align their vote closer to their beliefs, without compromising the election and handing support to candidates they dislike. It also allows third parties to gain ground, and (hopefully) could result in a multi-party system. Such a system would give Americans more options, and an easier way to support their own ideals. It would also (ideally) create a more balanced political landscape, leading to more complex discussions between factions and less simplistic vilification. It wouldn’t come close to fixing everything that needs changing, but if anything has been revealed by our current election, it’s that change is indeed necessary.


Your Opinion Isn’t Right

The presidential race is becoming increasingly embroiled in aggression, scapegoating, and general malcontent between ever separating factions. In such a time, the faults and frailties of modern political discourse fall out at alarming regularity. Found in both the rhetoric of the candidates themselves and the countless debates held between their millions of supporters, the inability for Americans to deliberate their differing beliefs is shocking. So often this shortcoming stems from one key source: the misunderstanding of opinion versus fact.

Merriam-Webster defines an opinion as “a belief, judgment, or way of thinking about something: what someone thinks about a particular thing.” While not obvious at first, the crucial piece of information to be gained from this definition is: an opinion is not fact. An opinion is as right just as it is wrong. Do you support increased gun regulations or are you against that? Either way, you’d be neither right nor wrong. Because that is your opinion. The duty of every civilized person is to recognize that, and then proceed appropriately, engaging in quality discussions. Alas, how little this is reality.

Often the phrase “you are entitled to your wrong opinion” is tossed around. Oh how wrong (yes, wrong!) those who choose to say this are. By definition. It’s this mindset that hinders political discourse so effectively. When it comes to politics, it is essential for people to disagree, and to debate with those who don’t share their same beliefs. That’s fundamentally what politics is all about. However, the incredibly close-minded attitude that all opinions aren’t created equal causes politics to come crashing down.

People will disagree, that is human nature. People will have any number of opinions, and they may or may not align with a random other’s. Two people may find themselves in a bar, café, school, wherever, and begin a conversation on their differing points of view. If they respect each other, and entertain their opinions and beliefs as valid and, by definition, neither right nor wrong, then healthy political discourse can happily take place. As citizens of the world (for this issue of misinterpreting the definition of opinion is not at all limited to the United States), it is our duty to thoroughly grasp what opinions are, and how productive conversations that form around contrasting ideas can really be.

Terrorism Isn’t Evil

WARNING: Controversial stuff to follow. But nowadays,  what isn’t?

Terrorism: one of the defining issues of modern times. While being a tactic used for much longer than many are aware of, it has come to a global focus in the past few decades. With it has come unfathomable amounts of controversy, anger, death, and fear. Because terrorism is BAD. Let it be understood that I DO NOT like terrorism. It’s bad. Very bad. It’s the intentional use of violence, often resulting in death, to initiate fear in a population for the advancement of political goals. But it isn’t evil.

To fully explain my point of view, I must first define my stance on the idea of evil. Others may disagree with me, but I am of the belief that no one is evil. We are all programmed like animals, and everything we humans do is because we deem it the right thing to do on some level. This discussion could go the way of evil in the abstract, but I’m not too well versed in philosophy, so I’ll stick to the idea that terrorism isn’t evil. It’s something I am quite passionate about.

Looking at the definition of terrorism, reworded from the definitions found on various online dictionaries such as Miriam-Webster, should prove enough convincing that terrorism isn’t evil. Its goal is to insight political change. It may be a cruel, cruel way to do so, but you don’t classify those who desire political change to be evil. Of course, political change isn’t brought about through violence and fear, all of it is done through respectful discussions between informed individuals, right? Oh. War.

War is terrible. It’s the intentional large-scale use of violence for political reasons. Of course, it is different from terrorism in a few key areas. One: it (ideally) involves only the lives of those soldiers who consciously commit themselves to the cause. Two: it generally involves the consent (a term used loosely) to go to war by all parties. Three: it’s considered noble, brave, and exists in the platforms of many politicians. People use these reasons, particularly the first two, in the defense of war and the condemnation of terrorism. However, they do not provide an accurate assessment of the reality of the situation.

Can we consider war and terrorism completely separate entities when war has existed in such similar situations as terrorism? Was the bombing of London by the Nazis during WWII not terrorism? Was the bombing of Japan by the USA during WWII not terrorism? Was the use of Agent Orange and other careless practices during the Vietnam War not akin to terrorism? What about the intentional invasions of the various wars in Iraq? Did they not carry some similarities? And what about the bombings of ISIS instalments taking place today? They may be targeted at the members of the organization, but that doesn’t describe the reality of who is actually being affected.

As a society in general, we place this implicit barrier between terrorism and war, but they shouldn’t be thought of as being fundamentally different. Sure, those living in nations with the resources to have large standing armies may see terrorism as something very strange and unjust, but that’s ignoring the other side’s situation. Terrorism is utilized by states, organizations, and groups that cannot participate in direct war with those they have conflicts with. For them, terrorism is the only way they can attempt to fight and protect what they believe in. To be clear, peaceful diplomacy is not an option for these groups, since war and terrorism alike exist only in the place of failed negotiations. To think of terrorism as being evil is to be ignorant of the other side’s point of view and beliefs.

Terrorism is bad. It’s the intentional use of violence to achieve political goals. War is bad. It’s the intentional use of violence to achieve political goals. However you look at it, this is the truth. From living in a nation where war is commonplace and terrorism is only ever seen as a tool used by the enemy, I’ve realized how important it is to seek as good of an understanding as possible of the other side. If you see them as being fundamentally evil, and act on that assumption, than they we see you in the same light, and act accordingly. It creates an endless cycle of malcontent and violence. We are all humans, living on the same lone rock in the universe. We must understand that people can have different beliefs and that no one is fundamentally evil. It’s the only way we can hope to coexist on this planet we share.