Protests, riots, shootings, vandalism, cop-killing, and along with them – feelings of fear, hate, anger, and frustration. You can’t pick up a paper or scroll through a social media feed without seeing these words or experiencing these feelings.
What has happened to the United States of America?
Who did this?
A decade ago you could have asked 50 different people and got 50 different answers – today you’d likely get one of two: Trump/Republicans or Democrats. Our political parties have lost their way, both focusing only on a small percentage of loud people in extremes of their base while neglecting the rest of the country.
In times like these where there is a palpable undercurrent of unrest and the majority of people feel that the violent and destructive behaviors of a few are not in the spirit of our America, you might expect people to ask “How can we fix this?” Or “How can we unite people?” While these optimistic questions are well-intended they look solely for a solution without fully grasping the problem:
We can’t just blame the politicians, they didn’t do this alone. No… they had 209,128,094 helpers – the entire adult population of the United States.
That’s right – you, me, the vegan bunny-hugger, the rifle-toting redneck, the chauvanist pig, the “Me Too” Feminist, the CNN addicted millenial, the Boomer only tuned into Fox News…. Every. Single. One. of. Us.
“Not me!” says everyone reading this.
Yes, friend. You. You and me, and all of us. Even a few more than the 209 Million because our precious children are being drug into this mess with us.
If you want to fix the US of A – there is only one question we need to ask. “What am I doing to divide?”
The division we’re experiencing isn’t just from grand acts by headline-making groups but from our own simple actions every day. Seeing a campaign sign and saying what an idiot the person is in front of co-workers, family, or friends, talking politics in an unproductive and angry way at the dinner table when your kids are present, posting and sharing inflammatory news stories or memes, even angrily blocking or unfriending people because you don’t like their views. All of these and many more simple actions feed into the negative energy that’s been growing around us for years.
The anger is spreading to our children, just last week on a local school bus two kids were talking about their preferred presidential candidate, Biden, while bashing Trump. Another child disagreed with some of what they said and was immediately verbally attacked and called a “racist” because the child didn’t share their views. Is this the reality we want for our kids? Who taught those children so say those things? Probably their family members, but most likely it could have been any of us that have made a negative comment online, shared a mean meme, or it could have come straight from the media — in other words, all of us have done this to our nation’s children.
What used to be the narrative of a smartphone tough guy, the keyboard warriors that anonymously post and share outrageous and inflammatory things online, has taken to the streets and wormed its way into every element of our lives. And it’s going to be hard to stop.
Now that we know the problem, we can ask: What can we do? How can we unite?
We can change the energy – starting with ourselves. We can listen without judgment and step outside ourselves and consider other’s opinions from their point of view. Perhaps – it’s possible – that you’re both right. When it comes to politics, talk issues, not parties. Ask others opinions and instead of shouting yours back at them, ask them “Why?”. Even if it doesn’t change your mind, you may come away with a better understanding of the person you’re chatting with or the issue in general.
If you’re really brave, challenge yourself to find something you like about the candidate you think you despise. You might be surprised to find out that there’s much more to the person you’ve been programmed to hate by the people or the party you identify with.
You might find out that they’re human. Just like the rest of us. With a history and a background that informs their thoughts and opinions that can’t be changed by the angry rhetoric of the opposition. But if you take the time to listen and learn from them, maybe they will afford you the same benefit, and use your example of kindness to engage another person. And maybe that kindness can slowly spread across the country.
Wishful thing? Perhaps. But is it really so much to ask?
If YOU are angry, afraid, or filled with hate because of politics or the other unrest occurring across the country and you are spreading those feelings in your interactions and on social media, you most certainly are the problem. Step back and examine your feelings – if they have merit then use the motivation behind the feeling to do something positive. Instead of picketing an abortion clinic, volunteer to mentor at-risk girls (and boys). Instead of targeting the police, their precincts, or pushing for them to be abolished, start a local, monthly, informal meet-up where cops and community members can mingle and discuss issues and concerns over coffee and donuts. Might be a good idea for city administrations to do the same thing.
It’s OUR fault the country is divided. It can just as easily be our effort that brings us all back together.