American politics: I can’t stand you. You can’t stand me. We seem to be polarized, but in reality we’re too similar in the wrong ways. We’re politic-ill.
Each side has their preferred news sources. Each is prone to flooding social media with garbage posts, or cherrypicked “news”; often written to inflame, mislead, increase tension or highlight drama. Posts aren’t made to share information, but to prove a point and tell the other side “I told you so.” Nowadays there are so many “news outlets” and opinion writers that each side can “prove“ their point with a convenient article found somewhere on the internet.
The left won’t talk to the right because “they’re too crazy and unreasonable”. The right says the same thing about the left. Each side stereotypes the other, and like a schoolyard bully, calls them names. Libtards, Repugnantcans, Liberal Snowflakes, GOPigs…
What an embarrassing, immature, and unworkable situation we’ve put ourselves in. We’re acting like 5 year olds. Have you ever seen two little kids arguing?
“My mom is better than your mom.” says one.
“Nu-uh.” says the other.
“Uh-huh- is too!”
“Nu-uh- is not”.
This back and forth goes on until eventually one pushes the other or throws a punch.
Are either of these little fools going to convince the other that they’re correct? Of course not! And yet, this is basically what our political discourse has become.
As a culture, we need relationship counseling. As five-year olds, we need somebody wiser and more mature to break it up and give us both a time out. We need someone to send us to our rooms, so we can think about our childish behavior and how we can do better. But nobody older and wiser is coming to help us, we need to do it ourselves. We need to mature as a culture, then allow that maturity to manifest itself in our politics, leading to an improved society.
The only way to make lasting changes to society is to build consensus by seeking to understand where all sides are coming from, determining the best course of action, and convincing those opposed to get on board. Consensus is important. Compromises may need to be made. There’s a difference between compromising your principles and making any compromise at all. Too many of us have forgotten that.
We need to approach issues from a place of concern for the group, rather than selfishness. By the way, refusing to “hear out” opposing views is a form of selfishness and immaturity.
If we can improve our discourse with each other by doing these things, we will be able to hold our elected leaders to a higher standard as well. We will produce candidates who are more mature, pragmatic and solution oriented than the partisan clowns we always seem to be stuck with. Unyielding partisanship is another manifestation of immaturity.
So how do we evolve out of our political Romper Room? We can start by reducing or eliminating some of the poisons that have worsened our situation.
First: Don’t view anybody as “them”. It’s all us, all the time. We can’t get rid of people we disagree with, we can only figure out how to deal with each other and move forward.
Second: Keep politics off of social media and avoid posts that don’t. Post a picture of your dog, your kid, a vacation, or something nice. If you need to share news, do it from a reliable source and leave off the inflammatory comment. Don’t engage with those seeking a Facebook war. As a general rule, arguing politics on social media is a waste of time. You’re unlikely to convince anybody by proselytizing or arguing, especially if you partake in the aggressive, attack-oriented, spouting-off that dominates the conversation.
Third: Skip the 24-hour cable news channels. We don’t need to hear hours upon hours of panelists dissecting and overanalyzing a select few elements of the day’s events. Standard newscasts often give more information in less time without the “talking head opinion parade” that dominates the 24-hour stations.
Fourth: Turn off the conservative and/or liberal radio stations. These radio hosts are often entertainers first, not news people. Drama and outrage can be pretty entertaining, so naturally those thoughts will get more airplay. Turn them off. Some stations still play music on the radio. Find one.
And finally: Calm down! Take a walk or do yoga. Take time every day to relax and care for yourself. When we get stressed, things seem more dramatic than they really are. That’s when we’re usually at our worst.
None of this means that we should accept positions we are strongly against. It’s clear that our country is battling through an identity crisis and we all have strong opinions on where that should lead. But if we’re going to move forward as a people, we’re going to have to act like adults and figure out how to work through it together. We won’t get by with mutual disgust, petty arguments and the maturity of a kindergartener.
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