In many headlines lately, most likely brought on by the wider cultural discussion of the very vocal detractors of President Trump, violence is a word on many people’s lips. Recent events in Charlottesville, as well as the picketing and protesting of many conservative pundits, have highlighted the growing cultural and political divide in the country. However, since the dawning of the United States of America, there has always been a difference in opinion and cultural identities.

The whole point of the founding of the nation was that its citizens should have the freedom to openly debate these political issues, in the effort to try and make the best ideas win out. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been the case that these ideas have met peacefully and won through pure merit alone. Some issues, such as the establishment of civil rights for those of all races, were won through repetitive exposure and force. Looking back over history, it’s certain to say that these conflicts resulted in a net positive for the country and general ethical hygiene of its people.

Unfortunately, however, in our mostly peaceful internet climate, violence is being used more than ever to try and back up political points, and the fault lies with both sides of the argument. Recent attacks in Charlottesville have spurned on these issues. While white supremacy is an insidious and hateful problem that needs to be addressed at its root cause, the common means of countering this found today, such as those found in the aptly named ‘Anti-Fa’ groups have not done anything substantial to quiet the fire. In fact, in many cases, they have progressed issues even further.

It would be very wrong to take sides in these instances. Extremism in any form, either left or right is equally condemnable. One needs only look at the body counts for both totalitarian regimes winning out in history to realize just how harmful they can be. It’s important to understand the only way a chosen political side has managed to win their point, at least internally in the country’s debating forum, is to prove that the points they are making are of the most merit, and lending massive exposure to them. This is not to say you should view your political opinions as a ‘team’ which you are part of and need to win points for. It means that you should be interested in furthering the best ideas, even if carefully considered they might be different from your own.

Violence and silencing the opposition is the easiest and least nuanced method of putting across your political point. However, it robs you of so much. It robs you of your legitimacy, interrupts your personal life if you are quite rightly caught, even if you have a solid team of lawyers to expunge court records in the future. It robs you of any legitimacy you have of putting forward your ideas for the utopia you envision, as you have used the benefits of a chaotic society to try and achieve your aims.

Instead of worrying about violence and the application thereof, seek to inform yourself. Instead of trying to silence the opposition, seek to understand at an educated level their viewpoint. The country is starving for educated opinions which are the true tools of the political battlefield. Make sure you have more to contribute than your fists.