What do Duck Dynasty, Colin Kaepernick, and Hobby Lobby all have in common? They are all contributing to the corrosive polarization of American society. Many people held desperately to the belief that things would all calm down after the contentious 2016 election, but its obvious that this will not be the case. Much of this can probably be attributed to the (purposefully) provocative rhetoric coming from the White House. But our frenzied media culture (and by extension, today's media consumers) are equally at fault. More and more, we allow politics to invade every aspect of our lives, cheering when it happens within our tribe, and booing when it happens within the opposing tribe. This week, we make the case for political "safe spaces."
The premise of this idea is simple: there are many areas of American society where overt politicization simply doesn't have a place. One would argue that, since politics inherently affects every aspect of life, we simply cannot escape this reality. But its clear that American society needs some respite from the constant vitriolic diatribe of political scapegoating.
Take the sports world for instance. Colin Kaepernick made a lot of NFL fans very upset when he refused to stand for the national anthem to raise awareness of issues of racism in American society. Some people just didn't like what he had to say, but many were also upset that he was bringing politics into the seemingly sacred world of sports. Still others stressed the importance of this protest as his constitutional right. So where do we draw the line? Perhaps the NBA can provide some guidance here. Many of the NBA's African American players also feel a strong conviction towards using their celebrity status to promote awareness of discrimination or police-involved shootings. But the NBA has adopted a policy that essentially boils down to "leave it off the court." Players are more than welcome to promote their causes off the court, but politics essentially stops at the locker room's edge.
Businesses in the private sector can benefit from political neutrality as well. Sure, it can sometimes feel right (or profitable) to take a political stand on one issue or another, but this behavior risks alienating the other side (which often takes that revenue with it). Think of all the liberal people who no longer shop at Hobby Lobby or the conservative people who have boycotted Nordstrom (even though it didn't intentionally take a political stand). Instead, corporate stances on political issues are best left in cases where they are directly mentioned in the political discourse (like Skittles commenting on refugees), or in instances where political policy would directly impact them. The vocal concern about the original Trump travel ban by dozens of large tech companies would fall into this category, since some of their permanent resident employees were directly affected by this. But in the long term, alienating half of the country just to gain market share from the other half is rarely a good financial (let alone responsible) decision.
In all, we ought to let politics be politics. Otherwise, we run the risk of continuing the division and discontent of American society and culture. When nearly every decision is tinged by politics, we become consumed by it. The places you shop, clothes you wear, and shows you watch are could all be considered extensions of your political beliefs. When this occurs, true dialog and understanding of one another is nearly impossible. And before long, we really start to become two separate societies, rather than one, indivisible union.