Political presence in friendships: is this a big factor?

Students on campus discuss their feelings towards individuals who differ from them in political stances.

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Despite the ambiguity of the recent election results, both parties have gained something vital for the future: the political awareness of the younger population. 

With teenagers beginning to form their own political stances, politics has not only found a way into their consciences and morals, but into their personal friendships as well.

Granite Bay student Claire Sawyer, a left-leaning senior, is among the multitude of politically involved students on campus.        

“Honestly, I would say a majority (of my friends agree with me politically),” Sawyer said. “(But) I have a couple friends who disagree.”

Sawyer developed her political stances alongside her friends, which helped them establish and cultivate a connection in their friendships.

Though she has some friends with political beliefs different from hers, she has always resonated with the friends who shared values similar to hers.       

Moreover, the anticipation and aftermath of the election being widespread all over social media led teenage social media users into an exposure of politics, furthermore allowing for opinions of all sorts to be developed. 

Additionally, many people politicized COVID-19, which prompted youth to realize its importance and eventually educate themselves.

Sawyer believes that politics not only had a direct effect on students, but it also fueled their interest to become politically  aware.

“I think a lot of people became more invested in politics just because it had so much of a direct impact on our lives,” Sawyer said. “(My friends and I) bonded over researching politics and becoming more interested in politics in general.”

Most students who are politically involved on campus share similar views with their friend group.  

Thus, the presence of politics in many different relationships may cause individuals with conflicting political beliefs to stray away from each other. 

According to Pew Research Center, 55% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans claim the opposing party makes them “afraid.”

“They might have different views that I really deeply disagree with on certain issues, and I might not feel comfortable being around that person,” Co-President of the GBHS Democrats Club Denali Lasko said.  “I don’t want to be friends with someone whose beliefs and whose actions directly harm other friends of mine.”

Currently, the polarity between the political left and right is evident in legislation through more ways than one. A big issue in the recent months has been the debate about masking.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, masking has become politicized, and while some people refrain from wearing one due to their beliefs, many who believe in the functionality of it feel unsafe around them.

Additionally, in the article Organizing the Next Generation:Youth Engagement with Activism Inside and Outside Organizations, youth mobilization has been more present in the feminist, immigration, and LGBTQ movements recently.

However when these movements start to become politicized and people begin to challenge the activists who are passionate about a movement, tensions between both sides begin to build up.

Brandon Dell’Orto, Granite Bay High School AP U.S. History teacher, believes that although political division is a recurring feature of politics, COVID-19 assisted in exacerbating it.

“Political polarization is not new to America,” Dell’Orto said. “It comes and goes. It flares and gets really strong and sometimes it goes away, and we get a little bit easier to get along with each other.”

“Political polarization is not new to America,” Dell’Orto said. “It comes and goes. It flares and gets really strong and sometimes it goes away, and we get a little bit easier to get along with each other.”

— Brandon Dell'Orto

Dell’Orto explains that the political polarization of the United States is currently at a high as a result of the accumulation of politicized events over the past few decades, such as 9/11 and the recent election.  

In addition, he believes that COVID-19 had a major and magnifying effect.

“It seems like when people are on the lookout for something that will validate why they’re pissed off, there’s more stuff out there to find it, and COVID-19 just amplified all that,” Dell’Orto said.

With regards to the situation with quarantine and masks, Dell’Orto noted that while some students were worried about the safety and health of their family, other students considered COVID-19 trifling and negligible, which demonstrates how divided the students were. 

“You see people who are really worried for whatever reason … maybe they have parents or grandparents that are very immuno-compromised. … Then you have other students (who think COVID-19) is no big deal.”  Dell’Orto said.  “Then on the other side, you got someone who goes ‘Why the hell can’t I go to my church anymore but you can open up all these restaurants and businesses?’”

In Dell’Orto’s perspective, there will always be people complaining about something regardless of the situation, and with COVID-19, people had more to complain about, causing a greater divide between both sides.

“When people are on the lookout for something that will validate why they’re pissed off, there’s more (than) enough stuff out there to find it, and COVID-19 just amplified all that, (which) gave more energy to both sides,” Dell’Orto said.

Jarrod Westberg, Granite Bay High School government teacher, believes that the current political division has never been worse.

“I’ve been teaching here for 23 years, and I’ve never seen the political division that I’ve seen the last couple of years,” Westberg said. “The amount of stuff people will say now, especially with social media and the ability to hide behind social media that so many people do in our community.”

Some people take advantage of the capability of inputting your opinion out there on social media without being associated with it. 

Political sides are often generalized based on what they appear as on the internet when that may not be the case.

So, what should we do as a school to merge together and become more unified?

“I think anytime you have somebody that forces you to look at the world slightly differently, you can’t help but come away from that relationship, short, long, intimate, loving,” Dell’Orto said. “A more understanding person in the world doesn’t mean you have to switch your views but at least now you see more of what the world really is.”

From Dell’Orto’s perspective, being friends with an individual of different beliefs can help you see from a different perspective. 

Dell’Orto elaborates that it isn’t necessary for one to completely change their beliefs in order to align with those of their friends, but as long as one has awareness that other perspectives exist and understands the reasons behind a certain viewpoint, it helps develop a receptive disposition.

Paralleling Dell’Orto’s notion, Westberg believes being friends with people of other beliefs will help you understand their reasoning behind their certain perspective.

“Trying to get people to see other sides is always going to be helpful for anybody to understand why the other side isn’t where they are,” Westberg said.

 

   

 

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