The Breakdown Of Civil Debate

By: Eli Saperstein and Sarah Brill  |  October 29, 2020

By Eli Saperstein and Sarah Brill 

Everyone has that crazy uncle or aunt that comes over for Thanksgiving or the Yomim Tovim (religious holidays) who after a couple of beers, or by the time the main course rolls around, starts to express their opinions at the table while their spouse looks down trying to keep said “crazy person” from embarrassing themselves. What we don’t realize is that by many other tables, we would be considered the crazy person. Now we know we aren’t crazy, yet the people sitting around the table looking at you would vehemently disagree.  

People may say that America today is divided like never before. The truth is that America has been divided on political lines that have been around for a very long time. There were rarely, if ever, opportunities to cross those lines. Today, however, is a different story, we have access to all information like never before. Then what is the problem now? Why aren’t we able to converse and have civil conversations now that we have access to the “other” side? The answer to that is because we now have TOO much information. There is so much that is considered newsworthy. Biden’s latest gaffe? Trump’s latest slip up? Why is this more important than spending the time  learning about their policies?  A key difference is that while a registered Democrat and a registered Republican might once have been friends or even business partners, nowadays political affiliation would be a point of resentment against one another. 

What changed? The simple truth is that we haven’t. Politics has. Politics, something that normally was only a table topic around election time or at the emergence of the latest scandal or war, has now become constant household conversation. When coming home and being asked, “What’s new today?” went from “My coworker’s client is having a problem,” to “I can’t believe what that senator’s aide’s spouse did,” we went from thinking about our individual worlds to investing ourselves too deeply into the world of politics.

Another issue is that the entertainment industry influences the homelife like never before. It is more pervasive and accessible than ever, and our conversations reflect that. While a short time ago we talked about apolitical shows like “F.R.I.E.N.D.S.”, politics now has infiltrated into our media with shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” becoming politicized. This has helped social conversation move from things that would ordinarily be talked about, such as personal issues or the latest movie that came out, to things that are more divisive in nature.

With the upcoming election, the fusion of differing ideas and perspectives bundled into one group seemed almost impossible. The difference between the example given about business partners and YU students is that at YU, we share one common thing: we are all Jewish. So why can’t we all come together and mix different political thoughts and have a civilized conversation? Well, we can. The Civil Debates at YU WhatsApp group chat serves as a platform for all YU students, no matter if they are Republican or Democrat, to come together and have civilized, productive and political conversations.