Teens in tumultuous times

Students discuss political identity during era of misinformation and division

Teens becoming more politically minded and politically aware today are doing so in a setting where different political groups are more and more at odds with each other.

For some students, the effect of this is having their views misunderstood.

“The one I have run into is that because I’m a Republican I don’t care about people or don’t want to help due to the fact that I don’t want to pay more taxes or more gun control, but it’s actually the opposite. I do want to help; I just think we should do it in different ways,” junior Jacob Spangler said.

Though Jeffrey Walk, senior, is from a completely different side of the political spectrum, he also finds people have misconceptions about the ideas he agrees with.

“People think that socialism automatically means the government controls everything and that there wouldn’t be enough food. I think this is mostly because the U.S. has done so much to smother fledging socialist movements across the world. There is no reason people need to starve under socialism, and there are many forms of socialism that allow for free enterprise while controlling essential needs like food, water, housing, and utilities. There’s even anarchism, which has no government whatsoever. Overall, I think that people look at socialism with far too narrow of a lens,” said Walk.

That being said, there are still plenty of politically minded students who don’t feel othered or misunderstood.

“In general, I don’t think so. There’s always gonna be at least one person who won’t agree with what I think, but I know a lot of people at our school who share similar political views as me,” said Chloe Wasielewski, sophomore. 

Even though not every single person feels particularly isolated because of their views, tensions between opposing political groups can impact the relationships and interactions students have.

“I think it is getting harder and harder to be friends with someone with a fundamentally different worldview because we all get different media sources, which makes finding objective facts about a situation difficult. Additionally, people are falling deeper and deeper into positions that I find contemptible, which obviously strains relationships,” said Walk.

Spangler also feels the strain.

“Due to my right-wing views people tend to see me as a racist, hick, redneck, etc. I think that because I label myself under the Republican Party I put a target on my back because of stereotypes. So I do think that because of this people just say I don’t understand or don’t care, which has no truth behind it. I do think that because of my political views I am looked at differently by people who are the opposite,” he said.

Even though being a politically-minded teenager has some significant drawbacks sometimes, it’s not all bad, according to Walk.

“I think increased political thinking is always a good thing. It’s important we hold the government accountable and make sure it is doing what we want it to, and that’s simply not been happening. More awareness will force more of a voice of the people into the actions that the government takes,” said Walk.

Wasiewleski also sees being interested in politics as a positive thing.

“Even though politics can be a super stressful topic, I’m glad I’m getting more involved in them to get my voice out about what I think is right,” she said.