Is it really a wonder we don’t all get along?

Shae Slaughter

We’ve all heard it before ‘why can’t we just get along?’ This simple question has existed for a long time, forever some might say. It exists on playgrounds, in the workplace and in social issues like politics. While ‘getting along’ sounds ideal, I don’t think it is necessarily surprising that we don’t. We are a nation that is quite literally founded on differences leading to wars, run by a political system that is a dichotomy, filled with people of completely contrasting beliefs.

Our nation is essentially the dictionary definition of a binary. The British versus the Americans on to democrats versus republicans, white versus non-white, liberals versus conservatives and the list goes on. We spend a large amount of time classifying things. 

Like me, I’m a white female English major who is a junior at Grand Valley State University. All classifications, all with oppositions. Somewhere, there is a black male math major who is a freshman at Saginaw State University. The question should not be if we have differences, but rather, are we so opposite?

Many problems stem from the choice to look at these as oppositions. An “us against them” mentality fills a lot of the speech that one hears every day. “Those dang liberals” or “ugh my teacher” or “oh you’re a feminist?” In these phrases, more is uttered than the words at hand, the speaker is also distancing themselves from other people.

The problem is that this distance equates to a struggle between individuals which then equates to a struggle within a country. Of course we don’t all get along because we look at each other in attempt to point out differences, reasons why we can’t get along. We look at others with opposing political views and assume that they’re wrong. We look at others with opposing skin tones and assume that they’re unlike us in some way. We look at others with a different financial status and assume that it must be unfair.

What makes these people so opposite from you? What makes those an ‘other’ or a ‘them’. Of course, they are different, this country is a beautiful melting pot of unique people, cultures and beliefs. But are they so opposite? With an open mind, one can see that there can be agreements, appreciation and understanding between any two people. However, if we look to vilify differences we won’t be able to get along.

Instead of looking for these differences as a point of separation, we should be appreciating them as a point of sameness. We are alike in the way that we are all different. Why believe in the binary of all of these categories when there are so many steps in between? To classify everyone as one thing or another completely eliminates the unique qualities that many people possess. Instead of assuming another person is so out of your realm, take a moment to understand them.

Even though our country is set up to be at a constant opposition, ran by political parties that are meant to constantly disagree, as individuals we have a choice to make. We can continue to be guided by the generations before us that struggle with men versus women, white versus non-white and republicans versus democrats or we can understand that very few of us easily fit into a single category. In this day and age, we are all a hodge-podge of ideologies, a whole new creative bunch, let us not be limited.