I took a few days to unplug and visit my roots last weekend. No cable news, very little social media and lots of time being with people I love. It was so refreshing. I had spent the previous seven weeks trapped alone for long stretches of the day with only an electronic umbilical cord feeding my angst whilst recovering from surgery. I think a lot of us feel similarly trapped as we digest the rhetoric of our exploding political divide. But you know what I’ve learned? Everything doesn’t have to be a battle.
There is a certain feeling like we have all become Howard Beale in the classic movie Network. “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” I get it. We liberals suck at standing up for ourselves. We elect people to office who believe cooperation and compromise are valuable skills for good governance. We are always the ones willing to try and understand an others point of view. And we are tired of it. But are we really so open minded?
Every election I am confounded as to how millions are convinced to vote against their economic interests. Supply side economics has a forty year history of failure for the working class. As income disparity grows exponentially people who struggle to live beyond paycheck to paycheck still clamor for lower taxes. But you know what has failed even more miserably than supply side economics? My assumption that those who buy into it are stupid.
I have a lot of failed responses to people who’s ideas are different from mine:
• I lash out at angry old white men because they lash out at my friends of color.
• I spew harsh judgement on evangelicals because they do the same to my friends of other faiths.
• I refuse to tolerate the intolerance of LGBT+.
• I mock those who cling to their guns to feel brave because they are afraid.
• I despise all of the immigrants in this land who oppose immigration.
What has that got me?
Donald Trump and Steven Bannon.
And the talking heads on both sides are still fueling our outrage because it sells news. This weekend I had the opportunity to attend a No Ban – No Wall rally in Cedar Falls Iowa. There was a small but bull horn equipped opposition demonstration across the street. The reality is that the feeling I got attending that rally was of love and inclusion. Nobody was particularly bothered by the misnamed Patriots For Christ across the street and several speakers reminded us that our fellow Americans across the street deserved our love as well. Nobody balked at that idea that I could see. Being on the ground among like minded people reminded me of our better nature. It’s always said that our differences aren’t as vast as they would seem and I believe there is truth in that. The disposition of that crowd was nothing at all like we see in the comment sections of news sites and social media.
I’m not saying it will be easy but my plan for a new way forward in this upside down world is going to be engage and listen. I’m not moving on and accepting anything but I hope to diffuse polarization when I can. I will stand up to any bullying I see and fight if I must. I just think trying to resolve our differences through conversation rather than accusations will be a better path forward. Hey! Maybe this won’t be so hard after all!
I could use your prayers.
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