A friend once asked me, “Do you think it’s possible for someone to be so liberal that they are close-minded?” My immediate thought was of course not — that’s the whole point of being liberal. When you and your friends identify as liberal, you are fighting for human rights, civil rights, the rights of all minorities and anyone who is against what you think is against all of the progress we have made in the past 100 years.

And that is when I realized the answer is actually yes.

The truth is that as soon as you immediately disregard the ideas of another group, you are close-minded by definition. When one party tells the other its views are no longer valid, that it is outdated, ignorant and offensive, the chance for a compromise is lost. This is not to say we should allow hateful comments to be left to spread more hate, but we have a responsibility to allow even the ideas we do not agree with to be heard. I do not believe we were always like this, nor do I think we intended to become like this. But over time, the habit of falling back to insults as a way to win an argument has overtaken our discussion to the point where we can no longer even tactfully communicate.

Most people have had experiences like this — no matter where one lies on the political spectrum. Heavy conversations occur when one individual or another stays silent. Because being silent is better than being personally attacked by another who is tearing them apart without knowing they are insulting the person standing right next to them.

We saw this problem throughout the entire past election cycle. Neither side would allow itself to consider any portion of the other’s argument, and debates were decided by the number of insults Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton could throw at the other. However, this situation did not happen over the course of one election. This has been going on for many more years than we even know.

study published in 2011 on 250,000 tweets sent out during the six weeks leading up to the 2010 midterm elections found that groups of Twitter users who interacted with one another were heavily segregated by partisan structure with very little interaction between the left and right users. This means that conservatives only interacted with other conservatives and liberals with other liberals. When this isolation happens, you get what we saw in 2016 — two groups that look around themselves to only see others of the same views, feel affirmed, and once again turn to the other group and say, “Of course you’re wrong; everyone knows this.”

What is truly alarming to realize is that people have seen this happening. The same study ended its conclusion with, “The fractured nature of political discourse seems to be worsening, and understanding the social and technological dynamics underlying this trend will be essential to attenuating its effect on the public sphere,” yet very little has been done about it so far.

This is where millennials come in. It will be on our shoulders to once again bring compromise back into a system that has two sides that shame those that take a middle stance. Whether this involves initiating the much-due change of the political parties, or beginning the elimination of the two-party system, we are the next generation to take political power. The country cannot continue our current split mindset.

It is going to be hard. It is going to involve having uncomfortable conversations with your acquaintances, friends and family about why they believe what they believe. Clearly it is not enough to simply know what the other side believes because it has devolved into making assumptions about others, which we have seen is only detrimental to the progress we are seeking.

The type of discussions that need to take place need to end with members of each side admitting they understand the other. We do not need to agree, but we need to at least give each side adequate consideration before we truly decide to support one ideology.

We are lucky enough to be living in a country, and on a campus, that was founded on the idea of open discussion. Let’s make use of this and have these difficult conversations. I call on those who usually speak up first to offer the spot to others before they say anything. I equally call on those who normally go with the flow of the conversation to find the courage to say their views even when they are afraid they will be suppressed. Let’s bring conversation back to the debate.

Alexis Megdanoff can be reached at amegdano@umich.edu.

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