One thing I can tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, there won’t be many minds changed.
We often hear we are more divided than any time in our history. Well, that’s modern-day claptrap, even if there are more than a few out there who are calling for a civil war.
But it is true many politicians and pundits, and even the everyday social media jockies who feel compelled to inflict ideas and memes on the masses, are moving the conversation further to the extremes. Critical thought and pragmatism are not in fashion.
David Brinkley once claimed everyone was entitled to his opinion, today that seems to go for anybody with a Facebook account. We tell athletes and celebrities who use their platforms for political purposes to keep it to themselves and “stay in their lane,” yet we seem disinclined to apply those standards to ourselves. Once upon a time, politics and religion were to be politely kept to oneself and respected, today, it is far more important to bludgeon each other with our beliefs.
Subjecting others to our convictions is now a right, and it’s someone else’s fault if they are offended. They’re “snowflakes.” People feel justified refusing services because of a bumper sticker or a hat, or acting like victims because others get annoyed at having opinions foisted in their faces. Folks act repugnantly, then have the gall to act put upon when they get blocked and lose friends.
Opinions become a matter of black and white. Right and wrong. Because everyone believes they are the norm, all right-thinking people need to think like they do, others must be taught to toe the line. “Elites” cannot be trusted if they question core beliefs. “Science” cannot be trusted if its facts are at odds with “alternative facts.” “Media” cannot be trusted if reporting doesn’t jive with the marching orders of pundits who stir the pot and fill the network coffers.
Politics is no longer about thought, but dogma — faith trumping fact — with one party always right, and the other not only wrong, but evil. Faith is blindly given to candidates with the correct letter following their name. Anyone who disagrees is with “the enemy,” and the thought someone could find both sides unpalatable is beyond comprehension.
If we’ve reached a point that we cannot highlight the flaws in our politicians because our support for them is so fervent, we are in a dangerous place. The problem isn’t in thinking the other guy is corrupt, the problem lies in not believing your guy is corrupt. That leads to fanaticism. There is a stark difference between being unconvinced by an argument and refusing to listen to an argument.
Certainly, there are fanatics on both sides who feel the need to evangelize for their point of view, and in their perfect world, would impose their morality on society. For some, there is a joy in provoking anger, no matter the collateral damage. And no doubt, folks on the right and left have significantly different ideas on some issues. No amount of yelling and screaming across the holiday table, no amount of angry posting on social media is going to change any of that.
But most aren’t extremists. Fears about the economy, the loss of jobs overseas, involvement in endless wars — there is commonality there. In Trump, some saw a opportunity to bring a change in thinking to Washington. That may or may not have worked out as they had hoped. But as Andrew Yang points out on the campaign trail, Trump got many of the problems right, even if, for many, he got the solutions wrong. Many who support the progressive agenda are grappling with similar issues.
Recognizing that will go a long way to helping us weather the polarization storm. We don’t all have to think alike, we just need to not be an imbecile. Approaching what we say and post with a bit of civility could preserve a friendship or keep the family on speaking terms. It might even keep the holiday heartburn at bay.