I grew up in Orem, Utah. I remember attending Orchard Elementary during the Clinton-Dole presidential race. I was in second grade. I can recall specifically waiting
for the music teacher, and all the kids were discussing the election. We of course didn’t know, didn’t really understand the differences between the two candidates: at the very least, I didn’t. I knew that my parents supported Bob Dole, but when asked whom I supported by my peers, I shrugged, not sure how to answer. So I relied on my elementary reasoning: I always liked the name Bob, and I knew that Dole was a company that sold pineapples, which I loved. So I said Dole.
Elementary school, junior high school, high school, an LDS mission, a couple years in college; I grew up with only a few challenges to the handful of political ideas that I had. Then I declared my major—English. Little by little, I was exposed to literature, exposed
to philosophies, ideologies, beliefs that I had always ignorantly dispelled. I had to ask myself what I believed, but only after I realized that politics wasn’t black and white; it’s a spectrum, a collage, a mosaic of so many opinions and beliefs, glued together by experiences, cultures, and societies. Questions about capitalism, about the role of government, about immigration, abortion, same-sex marriage, about all the little itty-bitty divisive policies frightened me. I would sit around the table listening to the discussions of my family, frustrated that I didn’t feel that I could express an alternate opinion. I didn’t necessarily believe any differently than my family; but sometimes I wanted to. Sometimes I just wanted to say something different for the sake of hearing difference.
Politics isn’t an exact science; there aren’t absolutes. My disappointment with the current system isn’t the variety, but the lack of communication between opposite sides—
the polarization. I want to hear people talk, hear them talk about what they think, and I want to say what I think. I’m done with the fears of my mother that I’ll become a liberal like my uncle, or those of my mother-in-law that if I go to grad school I’ll become a liberal; I’m done with the quiet sighs and rolled eyes when I introduce an alternate opinion—one that is just as valid, just as “true” as the others out there.
For me, politics need to rise from discussion, honest communication between everyone about aspects that will affect the individual, the community, the nation,
and the world. And when you don’t have an opinion, just ask for a pineapple.
by Austin Anderson