Politically, I grew up in a house divided.
My mother is a schoolteacher, and my dad owns a small business. As my mother's side of the family is chock-full of educators and pharmacists, education is highly valued when I head an hour south for Christmas with her side of the family.
On my dad's side, however, there are more than a few small business owners, and most of them have been involved in agriculture in one way or another. When I head 15 minutes north for Christmas with my dad's folks, I know I'll be among relatives who work until the day's work is done.
To my dad's side, I'm thrown in with my mother as a yella-bellied liberal because I favor the metric system to standard units (Anyone who has used British Thermal Units to calculate heating values will agree it is a far better system).
On my mom's side, I'm backed into a corner with my dad and brothers as a blood-sucking war mongerer because I drive a pick-up truck for no reason other than my keen affection for trucks.
This divide exemplifies how our society views politics – how easily we categorize people based on the silliest of principles. We try to pretend issues like healthcare, abortion and welfare are super divisive topics.
Liberals like to pretend conservatives don't want anyone to have any kind of healthcare because it cuts into profits and may cost private companies money. Conservatives like to pretend liberals want to give out free plastic surgery to everyone who wants to look more like Justin Bieber.
Any reasonable, thoughtful person can agree that neither of these opinions carries any real weight. Most people can agree that everyone deserves access to affordable healthcare, and that it should not fall on the government to pay for ridiculous health services.
The topic of abortion has similar misconceptions. Although some argue it should be legal and others argue it shouldn't, everyone can agree that we want people to show responsibility and not find themselves in a situation where abortion is a favorable option.
You'd be hard pressed to find a liberal who wants to pay for people to sit on their butts at home drinking beer and living off the government for free. You'd be equally hard pressed to find a conservative who doesn't want to give a guy dealt a rough hand a second chance.
We get caught up in our own opinions so quickly that we forget the reality of any situation, and that divide we create in ourselves is what leads to a lack of progress toward an ideal world (read: government shutdown).
The tea party gets bashed all the time because we have turned it into this group of religious radicals who supposedly want to oppress every minority group they possibly can.
No: the tea party movement started as a means of encouraging a return to the style of government originally designed by our founding fathers. Hence the name, "tea party."
We have also painted the Occupy Wall Street movement as a group of jobless hippies who want to form a communist state and destroy the work ethic of successful Americans.
Again, no: the Occupy Movement was started to inform people of the extreme disparity of wealth we experience in this great nation of ours, and through their efforts we have developed at least the idea of a 1 percent.
Coincidentally, our hatred of the tea party and our hatred of the Occupy movement work together to keep the 1 percent in power by maintaining a bloated government that best serves them.
Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, you should consider the other side. People are passionate about their ideals for a reason. Conservatives – "liberal" is not a swear word and nobody is trying to take your Bibles from you. And liberals – although some conservatives espouse extreme Christian values, not all do. And those same values they champion... couldn't you agree that some of them are valuable after all?
Compromise is a beautiful thing. Make the decisions that best serve our nation as a whole, not the political parties that claim to define us.
Nate Talbot is a senior in mechanical engineering. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.