When Did We Start Judging People Not by Character, but Their Political Affiliation?

Matthew Knight, Editor-In-Chief

It’s no secret that we live in a considerably liberal town, of which, we attend the most liberal high-school. Yes, Hellgate, Missoula, and certainly Montana has its fair share of political diversity, however, we always seem to find ourselves surrounded by like-minded individuals. There’s nothing wrong with this, in fact, it’s natural.
But when we’re so heavily and exclusively exposed the same beliefs —our beliefs— day in and day out, it becomes increasingly difficult to acknowledge any other perspective. While the occurrence I’m describing is not one unique to our school, city, or state, I think that it is strongly exemplified here at Hellgate.
Recently, I was agitated by an event that occurred at this school. While speaking to a classmate who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, another student approached the two of us and, having never met the classmate before, began making rude remarks to them about their hat.
Despite it absolutely being their right to comment on the hat and the student’s beliefs, I don’t think they are correct in discounting and shaming a peer whose beliefs and character they extrapolated entirely from a cheap red cap.
Though I would find it inconceivably difficult to support a man who’s imprisoned children at the border, promoted racial discrimination and boasted about sexually assaulting women, I also have to recognize that not every Trump supporter is a child-hating, racist, sexual assailant.
I have to do this in the same way that I recognize that not every XXXTentaction fan would abuse their girlfriend, not every Kayne enthusiast thinks slavery was a choice or not every Bill Clinton, JFK, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nelson Mandela, or MLK supporter would cheat on their wife.
What I’m getting at is that it’s impossible to judge someone simply based off of who they like, admire or endorse. There’s so much more to a person than just who they supported in the previous election; so why is it that we so often just categorize someone as a ‘Trump supporter’, as if their entire person can be summarized in two words?
I believe it’s because we’re naturally dismissive and close-minded to contrasting perspectives. If you’re reading this right now and thinking to yourself, ‘I don’t do that, I’m incredibly open-minded’, I’m here to tell you that you do and that you aren’t. Just because your views and beliefs are open-minded doesn’t mean that you are.
Being truly receptive requires valuing and recognizing other perspectives equally to your own. Now is this possible? I honestly don’t think so. But the least we can do is try. Try to understand other perspectives, try to broaden what you’re regularly exposed to, and, for god’s sakes, try to stop judging people based entirely off their political and ideological beliefs.
Am I suggesting that we go back to a time where one’s beliefs are kept to themselves? A time where political, social, and economic discontent is best left unspoken? Absolutely not. Our nation’s greatest accomplishments have come from individuals sharing and spreading their beliefs. To eliminate this, would be to eliminate progress.
However, next time someone’s beliefs oppose or conflict with yours, subside —if only momentarily— your offense, indifference, or even disgust and keep an open mind. Ask not just what they believe, but why — and listen. Actually listen, because what they say might just surprise you.