When I listen to the news, there is enough vitriol to make me ill. Where our need is to bring people together, we lock ourselves inside tiny rooms that do not allow others near. We define ourselves in smaller and more specific ways. We look for others who define themselves in that same way. We avoid encountering anyone who does not think as we do. We narrow what we watch to ensure we hear the news only from those who agree with us. When we never hear dissent, we never realize anyone else thinks any differently. If they do think differently, they must be misguided, misinformed, stupid, greedy, a bunch of sheep, evil, selfish, or ridiculous.
We forget the greatest truth of all. The truth is that it’s not us and them; it’s just us. Sometimes we will disagree on how we see the world, but we all should have the same goal. Our universal goal should be to make the world a better place for all its inhabitants. We lose track of the big picture. We lose ourselves in the minutiae.
No person can address all the problems of the world. For most of us, we can answer the needs only of our local communities. I live in Anaheim where the police recently killed two young men. In my community reasonable people recently got together to protest and make sure they were heard. Sadly, their message was diluted by those who used that moment to vandalize local businesses. The attention turned from the real and legitimate concerns of protestors to the action of looters.
We need to stop looking for who to blame and start looking for how to solve. We need to stop looking to the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, legislators, teachers, police officers, the EPA, the FDA, doctors, nurses, the military, the 1%, the 99%, fast food companies and anyone else to blame for all our problems, or to solve all our problems. We need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves what cause we can get behind. In each of us taking a little responsibility, big changes become possible.
When we find our passion, we need to educate ourselves in those issues. We need to listen to those on the other side of an argument so we can find those areas where we agree. We need to know that being on the other side of a discussion doesn’t make a person our enemy. It just means we don’t agree on this one thing. We need to humanize our views of “the other” and to make ourselves seen and heard.
We need to get our news from more than just one source. We need to stop listening to only the media that makes us comfortable. We need to seek out those whose views are different from our own. It’s easy to get on-line these days and read newspapers from around the world. There are English versions of newspapers from the Warsaw Voice to the Jerusalem Post. If Fox News is your primary news source, take time to listen to CNN, to BBC, and to NPR. If a story in the New York Times catches your eye, try and find the same story in other papers on-line. Read the same story in the Huffington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, The London Times, USA Today, the Herald Tribune, Ha’Aretz, the Global Times, the Saudi Gazette. The list goes on. It’s amazing how different the same story can sound.
The time has come to get back to the rules of the playground. No more name calling. Saying someone is a “Hitler” does not add to a discussion. Let us insist on genuine political discourse. If we could sit down and talk, and not just throw out carefully crafted sound bites, we might have a chance for a more educated electorate.
No more bullying. Just because someone has a different point of view does not mean you are allowed to silence them or push them out of the discussion.
No fighting. What worked as children works as adults. Use your words. Using your words means you must speak up.
Take turns. You get your chance to say what you think. You have to allow others the opportunity to say what they think, too. If we would take the time to really listen, perhaps we would realize that the people who disagree with us are not attacking us.
Some say that the liberals are constantly defaming others. Are liberals more likely to defame than conservatives? I am a liberal and tend to hear the attacks come more from conservatives. I suspect that the nastiness exists in relatively equal parts. Our perceptions lead us to believe that “our guys” do not attack. It’s “the other guys” who seem to attack us.
In the end, we need to regain focus. It’s not us and them; it’s just us. I am an American. I will be voting for Obama. If he loses, I will still be an American. I will not run off to another country. I will work in my community to make it a better place. If Obama wins, I will do the same thing. I know many reading this will vote for Romney. I respect your decision. You are not Hitler. Neither is Romney. I may not like your politics, but I sincerely hope you are about more than just your politics.
The time is now. Stop finding who to blame for what is wrong. Start thinking about what you can do to make things right. Stop pointing fingers and start offering to help. We can all help in some way. Find your own