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Consider tolerance when heading to the polls to vote

As America heads into a pivotal political season, it is important to remember one of the most defining aspects of its culture: tolerance, perhaps the greatest American value.

As a voter, you may be frustrated that someone intelligent and knowledgeable can possibly disagree with you. You may be thinking: If only they had all the information, we would totally be on the same page.

Not so, dear voter. An important element to keep in mind when having a political debate is the divide between equality and freedom that the founders of the United States built into the U.S. Constitution.

Left or liberal politics emphasizes the concept of equality. Socialism goes a few steps further, and going toward extreme equality is communism.

Right or conservative politics tends to emphasize the concept of freedom. Libertarianism and deregulation are steps in this direction, with anarchy its ultimate extreme.

The founders of this great country saw both of these traits as admirable and worthy in moderation, but hazardous if taken to the extreme. They sought to protect basic freedoms while simultaneously providing for basic equalities. The modern use of these labels serves only to divide and marginalize us all. Everyone should think out their views on each subject and try and decide where they fall. Party loyalty fails when only parts of the party doctrine produce a policy that you find favorable.

In the early ’90s, the world watched communism  implode. The highly regulated economy failed for one major reason: A handful of people tried to make decisions for everyone. They enforced equality as best they could across the board, which pushed everyone down to the same low point as the lowest common denominator.

The opposite governmental style, anarchy, might work in a perfect world, but people have shown they can’t work together unless they feel compelled to some degree.

Left to our own choices, we might all stop paying taxes, but the roads would decay, and the nation might not come together to fix them. Firefighters and police disappear with no government. With no military to maintain the borders, relying only on an armed populace, the country might be ripe for invasion. Citizens would be hard-pressed to organize after the removal of all governing structures — but the country would be very free.

America needs to rediscover the spirit of compromise and tolerance upon which it was founded. In their approach to every issue, people should ask themselves how much equality and how much freedom it gives, and how much of each they are willing to cede in return for a better place to live.

Our country’s founders may have been Christian, but they very deliberately separated church and state to protect individual liberties. Too many issues from the so-called culture wars get twisted from a personal belief or choice into a governmental policy that forces people to suffer under a system opposed to their pursuit of happiness.

Take gay marriage, for example. Ban it, and you have partners unable to call themselves family, with those in favor of the ban getting nothing more than a sense that the world exists the way they like it. Allow it, and opponents are forced to feel an uncomfortable spine tingle when they see the lovers kiss.

Close-minded bickering that urges people to limit others’ rights in their pursuit of happiness only leads to demagogical pandering. These appeals to the people’s basest instincts result in the founders’ greatest fear — mob rule. But you can make a difference. Decide what you really want to see happen — and then do something about it. Claim that which you value most.

Jason Olivero has received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Florida and is pursuing a degree in electrical engineering.