It’s time for civil discourse.
While watching a Sunday morning political talk show today, I was struck by a pretty awful realization. The round table discussion featured a liberal viewpoint, a conservative viewpoint and a few partisan-neutral opinions. The camera panned to a gentleman who I had never seen or heard of before. But below his face was a label identifying him as a strategist for a political party that holds views not generally in line with mine.
Within a split second, my mind labeled this man with disgust. The enemy. He hadn’t even said anything. But our country is full of people who are not trained to listen, but instead rush to hate. Myself included.
The political divide in the United States has become so severe, that anyone labeled as belonging to a political group not our own is an instant enemy. This is embarrassing. This is wrong.
Take a look at the following four pictures. You will recognize the first two as Sarah Palin and Barack Obama. The next two are a pair of political strategists. On the left is Ed Berstein, longtime Democratic Party advisor. And on the right is Nicholas Wolf, a GOP strategist.
The vast majority of people in this country likely would have reactions of strong dislike or potentially even hate towards two of those four individuals.
I can understand how hatred is formed for Mr. Obama or Ms. Palin. They have made policies and speeches that give you reason to form negative opinions. (And vice versa, positive opinions.)
But Ed and Nicholas? I guarantee you’ve never heard of them and I guarantee you have no idea what their thoughts and opinions on national policy are. And how can I guarantee that?
Because they’re not real.
Fake names, fake positions, fake photos that I found somewhere on the internet.
But I’m willing to bet half of you took an immediate disliking to Ed and the other half to Nicholas. Just because of their political labels.
This is a toxic environment we have been conditioned to respond to. And it must end.
We will have no peace and progress in society if we continue to slip deeper and deeper into our bubbles of ideology. We cannot continue to assume that a person who subscribes to a different political ideology is a bad person or deserves to be hated.
As a country, we need to adopt an understanding for civil and respectful political debate. We cannot simply pretend that it is OK to hate one half of your fellow citizens.
So when you encounter someone of different political values, hold your judgment. Listen to them, take into consideration their existence as a humble human deserving of respect and be open to the idea that they are a good person.
I received great advice when I was younger: Never doubt that the vast majority of people in this country form opinions and make choices because they genuinely feel it’s what is best for the nation. They may have different methods and ideas, but always remember that they too simply want a prosperous and happy country.
It’s time to adopt a new strategy. So let’s be open. Let’s withhold judgment. And let us learn to accept our friends and neighbors as good human beings, even if we disagree politically.
Random Fact: The average polar bear can swim nonstop for over 62 miles.