What you’re about to read isn’t going to be any new revelation and at some point; what I’ve written will frustrate or irritate you. So, on that note - here goes.
We have lost our ability to respectfully disagree and it’s eating our country alive. If we don’t find common decency again in our political arguments then; Democrats - you’re going to get another Trump elected and Republicans - you’re going to get a Socialist elected who will make Obama look like Reagan. We have got to learn how to treat those with opposing views with care and respect again; instead of hiding inside our tribes and lobbing grenades of insults across enemy lines.
To my more progressive friends - one of the biggest reasons Trump was elected is because most conservatives feel like liberalism is tearing the fabric of our country apart. To be blunt - voting for Trump was a big “you know what” to years of feeling like the country is being hijacked by ideals that half of us don’t agree with.
To my conservative friends - Trump is an absolute mess. He’s a terrible leader and he doesn't even come close to behaving in a manner in which many of you would allow your children to act. Honestly, I’m embarrassed to say I voted for him in public. However, I did for a number of reasons do so. I wish there would have been another viable candidate and plenty can be said as to whether Clinton would have been better for the country.
How have we become so divided to the point we aren’t even able to socialize and be friends with those we disagree with? I know it’s a number of complex factors built over many years but I’m going to talk about one.
I’m afraid to say I voted for Trump because I don’t want my liberal friends to label me as ignorant, racist, or a sexist. I’m afraid to criticize Trump because I don’t want any of my conservative friends and family to think differently of me or to ostracize me from our “tribe.” If I don’t fall in line with this group or that group - what group do I belong to? Thus, the overwhelming factor motivating our primitive behavior is our need to belong.
Having a sense of belonging is vital to our physical and mental health. It’s a desire God gave all of us for well being. It’s what forces us to connect with each other and we’re certainly better together versus being alone. However, the political strategist and pundits have taken that basic human need and used it against us and turned us against each other. They have built systems and used 24/7 media channels to perpetuate how ignorant one group is, how one group has power over another, and to tell us how unfair it all is.
They have divided and conquered us.
Our drive to belong has capitulated us all into two corners - us and them. If you try to associate with the other side or have ideas outside of our defined tribes way of thinking - then we are afraid of (and it’s proving true in our society) finding ourselves operating on an island alone. Therefore, we do what we have to do to make sure we have a place to belong.
Recently, I read a tweet from an actress that read:
“Shame on you GOP. You’ve chosen Trump over truth and liberty. You’ve chosen Trump over decency and honor. You’ve chosen Trump over equality and tolerance. You’ve chosen Trump over environment and oceans. You’ve chosen Trump over the American people and Democracy.”
Many of you may agree with that. But, I’d ask - How many GOP’ers do you think read past the first sentence? Do you honestly think this will change even one mind of a conservative on any issue? No.
The motive for the tweet isn’t necessarily to change anyone’s mind but to solidify her belonging to the group of people who think just like her. She will get likes and affirmation from people who hold her same beliefs and get hateful comments from those who don’t. In the end - nothing constructive will come from her use of words and energy.
Conservatives do the exact same thing and to the same magnitude. Let’s all tear the opponent apart in order to do what? Make a point? It’s surely not to get anyone to change their mind or follow you.
If you want to start being a part of uniting this country and being a part of the solution to help fix our political system and how we engage with each other in debate, here are some ideas for helping: 1. Stop sharing mocking video's or posts of others ideals, values, or candidates 2. Stop saying derogatory statements about those who have opposing values 3. Stop making fun of those you don’t agree with.
Doing any one of those things only contributes to further division and an increased probability that you’re not going to persuade anyone to listen to you, much less - change anyone’s mind.
Additionally, we have to stop voting for and supporting politicians who act more like kindergartens throwing tantrums every day than civilized adults who can debate with each other. Our congress and senate are full of people who do nothing but pander to their bases for money and votes. They don’t solve problems or even try to work with each other to find middle ground.
True leaders are those who are able to motivate, unite, and persuade a group of people to work toward a common goal. They also have the respect of those who disagree with them and are gracious in the way they carry themselves. The media coverage of President G. W. Bush’s passing highlighted a man who was gentle and led with conviction. What stood out in stark contrast to our current President was his kindness to others, even his opponents. Thus, you were hard pressed to find a negative word spoken about him last week.
What I noticed was that for a few days - it felt like everyone put down their swords and came together to honor a man who led the country.
It felt good.
I felt relieved.
Then it all started again…
If there is going to be any change to this problem, it’s going to have to start with all of us - one disagreement and interaction at a time. One choice at a time to stop sharing or saying degrading material about opposing views.
Instead we have to start debating and disagreeing with respect for the other. Then, we have to find common ground from which we can agree and work together to solve problems. I want to be able to tell my progressive friends why I disagree with them without being labeled or defined. At the same time, I need to check myself before I dismiss their arguments and understand why they hold their views.
I have confidence that we have the ability to change things. Last week I saw it and I felt it for just a moment. We are capable. We just have to start treating each other with respect and then voting in real leaders who are willing to shun this insane tactic of ripping the other side apart to win.
If we do that we gain a more peaceful and united nation. Equally as important, we’ll also gain deeper relationships with people who have differing perspectives than us; leading to a richer, fuller life and a much bigger group to which we all BELONG.