Are you allowed to be a moderate anymore?

During the summer of 2018, I worked closely with Sen. Chris Murphy’s Fight Back Connecticut campaign, which was intended to help coordinate and canvass for all of the 2018 Connecticut Democratic candidates. Through this campaign, my primary job was canvassing Fairfield County in order to get people to turn out to vote. In my role, I knocked on doors, worked the phone bank, and encouraged people to become involved in politics. During my time working with Fight Back Connecticut, I began to interact with Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike. This experience gave me a deeper understanding of our ever-changing political world.

This experience was eye-opening. It showed me that today's political climate is often toxic. Social media has made it incredibly easy and fast for people to publicize their views. Whether it be the rants for or against our President, senators, or Congress, there has been a steep rise in controversy, opinions, and of course “fake news.” The result has been a tremendous lack of respect for each other's views. I find this especially true within my generation.

Our school mission is the three R’s — respect, responsibility, readiness to learn; however, I don’t see our mission statement at work when it comes to politics. I think it is awesome that many fellow students are taking an interest in politics like I am. What is troubling to me is that often conversations can turn into debates and quickly move to heated arguments. The anger and division in American politics has found its way into the halls of Wilton High School. And what are the consequences of political shaming? Friendships break up over it.

At a recent Dallas Cowboys game, Ellen DeGeneres and George W. Bush were sitting together, talking and laughing. The next thing you know, Ellen has to defend herself because it was unacceptable for her to sit with a conservative Republican President. Ellen’s mantra is to be kind to one another. How sad that she had to come out on national television and clarify that you need to be kind to everyone, not just those who think the way you do.

Conflicts like this have occurred throughout United States history. A similar debate happened between two of our founding fathers: Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. As stark rivals, Hamilton and Jefferson had differing views about the national bank, the form of our U.S. economy, and many other issues; however, they always treated each other with respect and dignity. While their views may have differed, they would always acknowledge and work together to advance the United States.

I am not sure what the major 2020 elections will bring, but it is clear that the divide between Democrats and Republicans, Conservatives and Liberals, Right and Left is growing here in our high school and around the country in all societal circles. I don’t have answers to solving world hunger, world peace, climate change, gun control, and the opioid crisis, but I leave you with these words by Jackie Robinson who agreed that a little respect is the answer to bridging the gap. He said, “I’m not concerned with you liking or disliking me ... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

Remember to vote on Nov. 5 and have your vote counted in our town election!

Zachary Sherman is a senior at Wilton High School. He shares this column with three classmates.