Has there ever been such national (and international) turmoil as this? Have relationships ever suffered so badly based on the divisions of humanity at large?
As I’ve been informed by those who vividly remember the Vietnam War, yes we have been this angry and divided before. And I can only imagine that the Civil War and the Revolutionary War produced similar effects. So what’s the difference here? Why does the 45th President of the United States feel so ominously like he might be our last? Why are we so sure that we just will not survive?
On a personal note, why does it feel like a figurative lifetime of friendships and a literal lifetime of family relationships are irreparably doomed?
For one thing, never before have we been able to receive and share news (real AND fake) with such speed. Public proclamations, knee-jerk reactions are instantaneous, for the entire world to see. But we all know that. We are aware that the tiny computers in our pockets, our purses, our hands are both an asset and a liability. Information is always readily available, and our feet are always ready to insert straight into our virtual mouths.
As aware as we are, we still can’t seem to stop ourselves from texting, Tweeting, posting, and sharing exactly what we think right now, despite evidence that could very likely crop up within seconds to discredit our opinions. But by then, we’re already in the midst of a heated argument. We may have even veered off subject in our quest to be the loudest winner. So do the facts even matter anymore? Case in point, the term “alternative facts” is a part of today’s normal lexicon.
In short, we cannot admit when we are wrong. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is needed to heal the rifts we’ve created. We’re obstinate, preferring to stand back to back with our arms crossed, fuming at the unfathomable stupidity of the “other side.” In this, we fail to see that common goals would really put us on the same side, if only we could bridge the gap, admit the mistake, and move forward.
Do you feel stuck? Admittedly, I am whole-heartedly assured of my correctness. My views on humanity, the role of elected officials, the rights and privileges of citizens, this country’s place in the world logically make the most sense. My heart and brain are in accord, and it would certainly just be easier if everyone agreed with me.
But I didn’t run for president, and I don’t want to. I do want to be decently active within my community, and heaven knows that I am borderline overactive on social media. Also, I want the people that I love to keep their places in my life, in my husband’s life, in the lives of my children. And I don’t want to say that I am wrong. So, I am stuck.
I openly invite rational discussion, but those invitations hang unheeded. I ask for “the other side’s” resources and perspective, but I’ve only received a few half-hearted insults before the thread is abandoned. If we as individual citizens can’t move forward, then we cannot do so as a nation.
So here I am, letting you know that I am wrong. I can’t ask everyone to believe what I believe and behave the way I behave. What I can say is that it works for me, and it works for my little family unit, but we have to be willing to flex. We need to find ways to work with others. However, I say this very clearly: I will not compromise when it comes to basic human rights. I will not make room for blind hatred, for bigotry. I will not sacrifice the very planet on which we live to meet a short-term and anemic goal. If you hadn’t figured it out before, I bet you can now see to which side of center I lean.
I hope that makes my invitees more comfortable. I hope that this will be the spur of real discussion.
I hope that others can do the same. Just say it once: “I am wrong.” You’ll find that things are just fine after those words escape your lips, and you may find yourself sitting on the porch, over coffee, on the phone with someone who commented on your latest status in all caps with several exclamation marks. You may find yourself in a real conversation.
That’s where we need to start. And we need to start now. Looks like we’re in for at least four years of this situation, but it’s OUR country. We can make it what we want, what we need. But it starts with you and me. Meet me for lunch today? We’ve got a lot to discuss.
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