I would like to make some general statements on the problem of political parties and the problem that those parties, or associations more generally, solve. Not to beat the issue with a meat hammer, but I believe some observations from the "Meatless Monday" episode deserve some reflection.

I was talking with one of my closest friends about "Meatless Monday," and something she said gave me an unsettling feeling.

She did not really care too much about the issue until she found out it was backed by the Bowdoin College Democrats, and that made her furious: "Just another attempt for them to shove another one of their causes down our throats."

The issue was made much more controversial than it had to be just because a political group had its stamp on it. And party platforms make us angry! Why is this?

It appears that when a party gets involved, an issue radically morphs into a political struggle—or more aptly, a power struggle.

It amazes me that in a country where people have so many fundamental principles held in common—a prioritization of toleration, liberty, equal opportunity under respect to the law and an affinity for representative democracy—that we get so darn riled up about the particulars, the "small stuff," the fine print.

My problem with political parties is observable in last week's response to "Meatless Monday."

The political platforms represented by the two mainstream parties make political divisions seem too simplistic, require conformity or enmity and have so much power that every time an election comes around, one half of the nation feels tyrannized.

This is because, through habit, Americans have associated their hopes and dreams with one party.

But what if I am a social liberal who does not want my taxes raised in favor of more regulatory programs? What if I abhor abortions but also believe that everyone should have equal access to health care?

I am left in a proverbial political pickle and might just have to either vote where my pocket is or just for whoever looks like less of a jerk on TV.

But I will give you a break here. I know why you like your political party; you were raised with certain values. You are a proud American with firm, unbreakable, non-negotiable beliefs.

Honestly, you are not an idiot. You just do not have the time to do a thorough research project every year on every single political candidate, though you still feel some fading duty to at least vote.

If you vote straight down one side of the ballot, at least you will have an excuse for your implacable frustration when the government does not give you everything you want.

I had a conversation this Sunday about how frustrating it was to be without my satisfying stock of protein and saturated fat the next day.

In the middle of explaining the rational basis behind the event, I told my friend, "I think they're trying to raise awareness." We both asked, "What does that mean, anyway?" Then I answered myself, "Darn, it's actually working."

I realized that I had been talking about why going meatless was good or bad during every meal over a four-day period, especially the day that there were 800 pro-meat posters put up and ripped down from the Coles Tower elevators.

These party supporters—not necessarily as party members, but as activists for their cause—almost forcibly raised my mind up from the political and social apathy of my everyday life. Here is the power of association at work.

Just for a moment, individuals are brought together in conversation, debate, yammering, bickering, yelling (hopefully not yelling) and the like.

This is why I still have not decided whether I love or hate parties. But by the power of association, they can raise our minds toward others and away from our close-mindedness.

I am not sure if I like parties because I am uncertain of whether their differences in opinion lead to more open discussion or more close-minded debate.

Perhaps the problem of party politics is not the fact that there are factions but the way factions interact with each other.

We live in an excellent political system, but we need a change in mores, an alteration of political habits. Who will bring our domestic politics together?

Jamie Cohen is a member of the Class of 2011.