Divided States of America

This election makes me sick.  I feel as though I have a front row seat to…finger-pointing and scapegoating.  Each candidate seems to be telling me that America’s problems are the other person’s fault and they are the answer to those problems.

I have blamed the candidates, the parties, and, even, the structure of our election process for this polarized political landscape (and there is enough blame to go around), but I’ve come to consider that the blame also rests with the citizenry.  The citizens of this nation have become incredibly entrenched in their views, overall.  Rather than civil discourse there are raised voices, hate speech, and violence.  Our politicians sometimes even get themselves into trouble if they are willing to work on a bi-partisan project or vote for a bill that doesn’t perfectly conform to their party’s platform.  From where does this entrenchment come?

Unfortunately, most people turn to television news that suits their existing worldview (yes, I’m talking about you, MSNBC & Fox News).  Instead of turning on the radio or television to have assumptions challenged: existing worldviews are reinforced.  Yet, one cannot solely blame television or, even, talk radio (although I like to try).

The advent of social media and internet news technologies allows a user to choose the news sources and information they want and much of it happens without us even knowing.  I share views with some of my Facebook friends but I am also connected with people who view the world in an opposing manner.  Though some of those opposing views pop up in my newsfeed (usually because of a heated argument in the comment section) most of the posts in my feed reflect the views of people with whom I already agree.  Facebook sees that I “like” and view posts by certain friends (that have shared points-of-view) and Facebook shows me more of what I want….

Most of our media is designed to reflect the world we want to see, rather than the complex challenging world that exists.  When a person sees the world as they want it is easy to become entrenched in a view.  As citizens of this great country we must seek out views that challenge us (and this is getting more difficult).  We cannot build relationships with people we do not understand and we cannot have a working government without understanding one another! We must work to understand the people who oppose us and have civil discourse on the issues that plague our civilization.  Here are three thoughts:

  1. Listening to opposing views will not betray one’s own beliefs, so listen to/read what other people have to say reserving judgement until you’ve heard/read it all!.
  2. Do not immediately comment or repudiate another person’s claims, especially on-line.  If the person is not standing in front of you, there is not a hurry to respond.  Taking a moment to consider another viewpoint may even help you to develop a response that is more persuasive.
  3. Remind yourself, when on-line, that each person owns their own posts and comment.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your response will undo a post. In fact, responding in anger one is likely to only deepen another’s entrenchment.  Presenting oneself in a respectful way (even if the other person is not being respectful) and looking for commonalities will further your own causes.

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