The idea that one reality is greater than or more accurate than another reality is a quandary that has troubled me for some time, and frankly I do not see any end in sight to the worry and frustration this issue has caused me. I believe this is such an issue for me because it is challenging for me, and for anyone really, to pull myself out of my own reality, which has been shaped by every minuscule event over the entire duration of my life, and put myself into someone else’s for which I have no possible way to gain any insight into those important indicators that have shaped their viewpoint. What is most troubling, and why it is even remotely worth considering and trying to understand, is that we live in a world of polarized realities, and even worse, of non-realities that masquerade as being authentic.
We will start off with the mundane, and move further into the grandiose, so that we might be able to effectively iron out what the issue with this dilemma is. Lets imagine that two people get married, and they come to the table with completely different backgrounds on a familial sense (at least we hope in these modern times). They come together with totally different experiences, habits, and possibly different interests although that is generally par for the course. For many, these differences are a positive thing ( think opposites attract ), but as time goes on, although joined in a union, these people still continue to expand and adapt their realities on an individual level. This happens all the time, and it is a perfectly healthy thing to do. However, in some cases, this growing and morphing can drive two people, who at one time shared a very similar reality, to be living in two worlds so far removed on a fundamental level, that their shared reality is no longer applicable or present, and of course we know that this can lead to a separation of their life together and new futures for the two of them, possibly two wildly different futures neither had anticipated.
This same ideology can be applied more broadly and topically to this election season we find ourselves in. You can’t go 5 minutes without hearing how crazy Donald Trump is or how unappealing Hilary Clinton is or how scary people find Bernie Sanders or how unlikable Ted Cruz is. Just the chatter alone about candidates and people’s fears about the direction of the country is nothing special, and I'm not saying this season is any different in that sense. This behavior is the same in any given political race going back as far as there were political races. So, what is it that makes this one so worrisome? It all goes back to the idea of reality. We have seen unprecedented turnout and enthusiasm for both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump because of how unique their supposed "anti-establishment" platforms are. I would argue that although we have seen so much coverage on these two, we have heard even more nonstop about their supporters. Really, the critique comes down to their supporters more than the candidates, because these people are living lives that have been said to be marginalized and isolated for a good deal of time before this election started, at least in a political sense. The supporters are where the reality takes shape, and where the breakdown in shared reality is most present.
We're all American right? The answer may not be a simple yes as we have once thought it was. As the country polarizes, its identity changes, and from that emerges a new identity, or identities to be more accurate. In some scenarios, this is important and necessary, like when we look at social progress and the continuation of the melting pot that has shaped how diverse and multi faceted our American culture is. The issue is when it comes to the parties, particularly the two main parties fighting for control of the country. If we peel this back further, the two party system can be tied back to the married couple analogy I brought up before. We have a couple, once just two individuals by themselves who came together and made a decision to be married. In our country's case this is a second marriage we are talking about, but the analogy still applies. The union grew, but as it grew both parties grew individually too. One side decided it wanted to take up studying the environment and social change and the other didn’t like how their partner was spending money and what they were spending it on and sooner or later, after small changes in viewpoint and interests grew into large hot button differences, both sides were living in totally different realities that caused them to split further apart and not be able to communicate any way other than with extreme hostility and hate. Finally, the rift became so big that reconciliation became impossible. Politically as a country, we are the children of divorce, with each parent trying to persuade us the other parent is the wrongdoer. We are bought off as the only way to be shown love, and the two continue to fight, openly at that, as we watch and wait, hoping our parents will get back together although we know deep down they wont.
If all of this isn’t hard enough, you bring in the internet and social media where people can be whoever or whatever they want, and even if they want to pretend to be something totally different or not at all real, they can be. You get trolls and troublemakers alike, along with marketing and big data creating digital havoc one small interaction at a time. If the point is lost on you, go spend 15 minutes reading YouTube comments. It could be any video, it’s the dealers choice. Find a baby or a puppy video and you will see the most hateful, disgusting content, all for the sake of either inciting other people with fiction for fun or actually expressing extreme hatred, and unfortunately you never know which motivation is the true one. It is in this toxic environment of false truths that political ads are sprinkled in for good measure, and the internet with all of its anonymous glory that plays host to these public forums where we can say whatever we want, and not be penalized for it. Beachbabe69 or dirtbikekid11 can say whatever their heart desires about foreigners, the economy, race, or any other category that would suggest a deeper distaste for someone or something and with the exception of their photo, which half the time is a cat or a meme, no one can call them out. This type of behavior is rampant on both sides of the aisle in terms of political taste.
Some say mental illness is on the rise, or that stress and anxiety are at an all-time high. Some would argue that it has stayed constant, and that people just have more of an outlet now to express it and that the media makes money off of reporting this to be the case for the sake of readership/viewership. This same ideology is applied to the fanaticism that has engulfed any and all of the candidates in this race. The media draws battle lines, and drafts in their audience, further creating divisions. To me, I think it is irrelevant, because at the end of the day, as selfish as it sounds, my reality is all that I can process. I believe the world is changing, and that we are seeing ourselves separate and be torn in different directions, sometimes a different direction each day, or each hour some days. There are one thousand ways to have an idea or a product marketed to you, and there are infinite ways you can process them. Maybe it is naivety to think there was a simpler era, and maybe I am a dead ringer for the stereotype of the wistful millennial who yearns for something I never knew, but I find it hard to be able to put myself in the shoes of a Trump supporter, or to ignore the glaring inconsistencies in Clinton's record. I can't ignore the Texas style blind eye Cruz casts on any social issues and I really can't understand how a revolution can be led by Sanders when he too blindly ignores key issues for the sake of adhering to his own narrow vision. I can't do these things because my reality won’t let me. Politics, the internet, and the mass of general opinions are all grey and I live in a world that has to be more black and white. Again, it could be ignorance, but I believe there was a time when a fact was a fact and people held true to one belief or standpoint instead of purposely blurring the lines to confuse the real issues.
I suppose what worries me is the question of where do we go from here? As humans we are adept at finding bridges to meet on when we need to get things accomplished, but as a relatively young person whose reality is shaped by 9/11 and the recession, I thought a bridge should have been built a long time ago, yet all I see are different factions agreeing that they want a bridge but spending all their time arguing over what color the bridge should be. In one breath these factions say the children are our future but then in another breath they dictate who these children can and cannot marry and they raise them to hate other children even more so than they were ever capable of doing. As my mind tumbles on with fleeting thoughts of red faced politicians and religious figures yelling at each other from floating balls in the sky, I think to myself “Is this even worth writing about? Am I just some stick in the mud alarmist who can’t adapt?” I realize now this is what scares me. What if I can’t adapt? Where is the line in the sand that I can’t cross? This not so fictional line where the world leaves me behind as it progresses towards what I consider insanity, and as a result I decide to buy whatever the future version of a “Make America Great Again” hat is and yell at the television about some kind of America I dreamed up but never actually lived in.