Political labelling a slippery slope

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It is no secret politics have become increasingly polarized; from St. Albert to Parliament Hill and beyond.

In the heat of political debate, we are quick to fall back on labels, naming a single idea – and the individual from which it came – as left or right, liberal or conservative. The same can be said for the way we label one another on a more personal level: millennial or baby boomer, feminist or misogynist, racist or ally. While these labels may, at one time, have had very concise meanings and contexts, it would appear once relevant labels have lost their meaning altogether.

With our political climate becoming increasingly polarized, political labels that lie on opposite sides of the spectrum fail to include a wide array of relatively middle-ground ideologies. It seems it is impossible to find an individual who has moderate political views in today’s political debates.

Based on the context of my columns, it is not uncommon for people to label me as liberal, leftist, or in more extreme cases, a Marxist or “feminazi”. Political labelling takes away the nuance of political debate and discussion, and replaces well-informed opinions with baseless assumptions.

When we use such broad labels, we miss the vital details that make up an individual and their core ideologies and beliefs. Labelling only serves to divide and stifle what could be productive discussion.

The popular local labels “Liberal” and “Conservative” are often not an accurate depiction of the individual to which they are attached. It is highly unlikely the person being labelled tows the party line on every single issue. It is an extremely rare occurrence for one to be truly and completely liberal or completely conservative.

Our tendency to label each other so broadly has left much of the vital political debates surrounding North American politics at a stalemate; it has created an “us versus them” mentality.

Underneath every single CNN post on Facebook lies a flood of comments, complaining about the snowflakes of the left. Under Fox News posts lies comments claiming everyone who consumes Fox News is a Trump-supporting extremist. It is incredibly important that we consume media that does not reflect our own political beliefs, so that we may be fully informed and confronted with ideas outside our own.

If an individual believes in climate change and human rights, for example, it does not make them a leftist snowflake. Just as an individual who supports the Trans Mountain pipeline, or has religious values is not a red-neck right-wing extremist. Politics are far more complex; to label each other so swiftly, while perhaps easier, is neither productive, nor an intelligent way to debate.

In order to make progress, and have productive, legitimate political discussion, we must adjust our tendency to fall back on labels.

Jennifer Hamilton is a local student and writer.

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