The last year has been full of partisan rhetoric, anger and anxieties, and rightfully so.
This election cycle has taken an emotional toll on all of us, whether we are aware of it or not. I personally have felt the stress, the struggle to remain objective, the struggle to not just react emotionally and the sense that I have been losing touch with people I may have previously disagreed with regularly. But would have never dreamed of writing off their opinions. I am as guilty as the next person of letting my emotions and biases get the better of me, which is wrong, and not an acceptable way to approach important issues.
I’m not going to lie… It’s not going to get easier the way things are going.
Recently, I have had many conversations with friends, and that bubble has started to burst a bit. The shell is starting to crack, and the connections are being made once again. Initially, it was difficult to place why exactly this was, so I began the process of meticulously analyzing the thoughts I was having, and things I had said in comparison with the previous months. My conclusion was so obvious it was embarrassing to accept I had been missing it the whole time.
The Solution of Consistency
What exactly do I mean by that?
Well, I started substituting different names into news stories. I would see a story about a politician I disliked, and instead of just reacting to the story, I quickly would imagine that same story coming out about a politician I preferred.
This simple test revealed several instances of hypocrisy, and has since made me more aware of what really mattered. A consistent moral foundation of what I personally believed to be right and wrong, regardless of who carried out those actions.
The Moral Ground
With this obvious, but newfound, revelation, I began to approach stories and conversations with friends a little differently. The changes in tone and subject matter were minor, but the results were exponentially more beneficial. Dropping the need to be “right,” or “see my side win” allowed me to be correct instead, but more importantly it allowed myself and others to be honest and address the underlying issues we could all see without the rose colored glasses on. Without the focus being on who wins the argument, it shifted towards shared problems, shared morals and shared ideas about solutions to the issues.
Take money in politics, the corruption it brings, lying to the public, nepotism, pay for play, personal enrichment, partisan stonewalling for the sake of it, whatever the subject, almost all of us agree on a moral foundation. We just get so caught up in the differences of opinion we have on the policy solutions or people involved, that we forget we share a problem, and often share a desired outcome.
Using this approach, we could quickly cut through media biases, political leanings and partisan rhetoric, addressing the core issues we actually cared about, instead of the wild goose chases those in power constantly sent us on. We stopped feeling pitted against each other, despite our differences and started trying to find compromises to solve the problems. What had previously seemed hopeless and broken, now seemed within our grasp once again.
It Really Is All Just Politics
The truth of the matter is the media and politicians aren’t acting independently of us, they are a reflection of us. If we are wildly inconsistent, and only demand accountability for one side or the other, constantly obsessed with which “team” is ahead, they will be as well. If we accept that corruption is just part of the gig, and defend anyone we like when they show obvious signs of corruption, we are endorsing their actions, whether we know it or not.
The politicians and media can easily control a country so divided we can’t even agree on shared values and interest. However, if we move beyond this simplistic mindset, we can and will produce real changes, lasting changes, and a system we are once again proud of.
I have many friends who are from outside the US, and criticisms about specific politicians aside, I felt embarrassed having to explain our countries reactions on different issues to the more inquisitive among them. I no longer want to feel that sense of embarrassment, that sense that shame when having a conversation knowing I am being hypocritical and counterproductive.
No, I am better than that, we are better than that.
It is time we moved past this bitter and divisive time in our history, and set our sights on being a group of citizens, united around common principles and goals once again. I challenge all of us to start questioning our knee-jerk reactions, our biases, and our sincerely hold morals and principles.
In my opinion, this is the solution to the corrosive environment we are in, that is eating away at the foundations of who we are. It’s time to stop identifying as democrats and republicans and remember that we are all Americans who simply hold different worldviews. Differing opinions are not rooted in evil intentions, they are important to our democratic process and the continuing dominance of the beautiful country that we call home.
Please take this to heart and think about it the next times you have a political discussion with a friend or family member. And share this one social media too….