Well…it’s been a while to say the least. I could try to excuse my absence with a list of the plethora of stresses that embody junior year of high school, but that would be both bad writing and plain boring. So instead, I’m attaching my Junior English final assignment- a letter-like speech about something we find unfair in our lives- where I wrote about the paradoxical liberal culture of the town I live in. It reads better out loud, so if you live alone or aren’t afraid of someone hearing you and thinking you’re talking to yourself, then I would suggest reading it out loud:
The dinner table. Those words alone elicited a chill down my spin. For many the dinner table is a source of stress because what comes with it are college talks, boyfriend talks, job talks…but what really gets me isn’t the mundane small talk that inevitably consumes conversation, it’s the politics. I hate politics; or more specifically I hate debating politics. Now I know all your brains are cranking out the math and seeing it doesn’t add up: hates debating politics but chooses to spend several hours a day in a program called the civics and government institute*. So in the spirit of math, let me give you a word problem to help you understand it a little better: If Abby spends ten hours a week listening to people “debate” issues they all agree on and dismiss anyone who thinks differently, how long does it take her to become resentful of these people? Pretty quickly, is the answer. I’m not going to pretend this resentment only stems from CGI, there are too many roots in this tree of resentment to count but let me try.
If you break it down into levels, my resentment stems from several aspects of my life: my town, my school and my peers. Montclair is often endearingly referred to as a bubble…a bubble of supposed open minded progressive values where I have spent the past 17 years growing, learning and developing into the person I am today. Now don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly grateful to Montclair for what it has given me: a better understanding and awareness of the diversity that makes America, America. However, while there’s a large diversity of race, religion and economic class, there’s little to no diversity of thought. All it takes is a little stroll through a dinner party to validate this statement; for there, you will find a plethora of small groups of adults chatting away about the latest New York Times Expose on whatever Trump scandal people are buzzing about.If you dissect those conversations, however, you’ll see that there’s no real debates going on. They are all debating like broken record players, spewing out the same general ideological opinions on the matter. It is exhausting to listen to.
This sheep like thought culture is not exclusive to Montclair; most communities are made up of like minded individuals who agree on the same general matters, because it’s natural to group yourself with similar people in the means of avoiding conflict; even within large, diverse cities you see individuals grouping themselves with others who think the way they think, or act the way they act. However, Montclair has a little glitch to it’s separatism: they pretend it’s not there. People in Montclair love to promote themselves as being a part of the “most open-minded community” in the US but the second a Republican comes within view they begin to cringe. They have a filtered approach to open-mindedness, picking and choosing the topics to show tolerance towards. “Come on in, express your sexuality however you please, that’s your right. But have a conservative stance on healthcare, and we’re going to have to ask you to leave.” The hypocrisy is astounding.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a generational issue that cuts itself off with the adults of Montclair, it has seeped its way into the schools and into my peers. This is no surprise to you all, since, you-we-are a part of this issue. Just think back to the last congress session we had; it doesn’t seem all that different from the dinner party scene I illustrated earlier does it? We’re just a little bit shorter and are debating on setting up a composting system at a school instead of Trump hysteria. This stubborn close-mindedness is why there are kids too intimidated to join the CGI community, out of fear that they might disagree with the majority and be criticized because of it.
So Dear fellow CGI classmates and Montclair residents:
How can we say we’re open-minded? How can we as a community promise to be tolerant and unprejudiced if we continue to dismiss our conservative community members? We can’t. It’s that simple. Until we start putting an effort into legitimately listening to the other side-the way we complain about the other side not doing for us-we cannot claim to be true liberals. I’m not suggesting we convert into an alt-right paradise, I’m simply suggesting that we open our ears-the way we claim to open our minds-to the people we may disagree with, because sometimes listening is enough.
*CGI stands for the Civics and Government Institute which is a small learning community in my high school, which means my core classes all revolve around government and politics.