Bridging the Divide

Road to Resilience


Slightly more than half of us are breathing a huge sigh of relief.  The problem is that we don’t know how the other half, which is hugely disappointed, is going to react.  This divide is much bigger than a lack of agreement about policies.  This is a deep cultural schism involving visceral hatred and distrust on both sides. It is tribal now:  us against them is all that matters.  Yet, we all know that, without the other half, we can’t move forward.  Saying the other side started it is just a copout.  As a progressive, I read lots of hurtful things about me and mine.  I also read progressives giving tit for tat with just as hurtful generalities about conservatives.  That not only is not right, it widens the gap and guarantees that the abuse, separation, and the inability to move forward will go on.

At the same time, we can’t accept any idea or action that limits the rights of any person or group based on who they are or what they believe.  We may think that it is mostly the other side that is guilty of this, but we should recognize that everybody is guilty to some extent.  Accusations cause denial, resentment, and closemindedness.  Discussing discrimination as a common problem brings openness and cooperation, but only after the mutual recrimination stops.  The important thing is not to accept or normalize bad behavior but to point it out and invite a discussion about it. It may be difficult to convince a person with strong religious beliefs that it is all right for other people to hold other beliefs and that it is not right to judge others on the basis of your personal beliefs.  This is a biggy:  the number of wars, persecutions and agonizing deaths this has caused throughout history should be well considered, and, if a person is resistant to this, then there is nothing to do but to limit their ability to act.  For some things, only time will bring a healing.

Language is a powerful tool that we don’t use considerately or wisely.  There are a whole lot of words that mean entirely different things to the two sides.  Words such as “socialist” and “capitalist” can’t be thrown out without spending some time parsing out what they mean to each side.  Until a common understanding of those terms is in place, we would do well to bring up only examples of each without putting on a label.  If you favor socialism, talk about libraries, the post office, police and fire departments, social security, etc.  Don’t talk theoretically about the ownership of the commons by the government.  And don’t talk as if socialism and capitalism are mutually exclusive.  Think before you throw out a contentious label in explaining your position.

Time and familiarity bring trust, acceptance, and eventually love.  I like to think that community celebrations, and, on a more frequent and local level, potlucks and work parties could be the answer to bringing people together in a non-controversial way so they can get to see each other’s humanity and be more willing to consider another’s point of view.  It all comes down to mutual respect.

In the meantime, we have this distrust on a large scale that doesn’t allow for the above strategy, and I can only say that we must stop pointing fingers.
On the plus side, this election is a sign that people still trust in the ability of a people to rule themselves, despite Trump’s attempts to undermine it.  This year’s turnout of 73.7% of eligible voters of all parties is the highest since 1900 and, although we can’t say for sure, it appears that the Republicans are willing to accept the result.  Trump may not cooperate, but I think there will be a peaceful transition of power.  (I hope I don’t have to eat those words.)
This may not immediately find agreement everywhere, but I do think that Trump’s lies, and his uncivil, rude and judgmental behavior have really fanned the flames, and having him gone will really make the job of coming together easier, especially if we the victors are magnanimous.

Regardless of the differences, we need to hold everybody to account that may have broken the law.  If we don’t, we will create a moral hazard in which dishonesty, injustice, and disrespect could become the norm.  We humans are equally capable of both the basest and loftiest behavior.  Any one of us can be an ogre or an angel.  We can’t tolerate base behavior while knowing that we are all capable of it.  We also can’t behave badly just because we are on the receiving end of the same.  We make laws precisely to hold ourselves to our best behavior.

If what I’ve said above simply reinforces your belief that liberals don’t know what they are talking about, tell me so by responding to my request below.  Let’s sit down and talk about it.  I’ll listen to you if you will listen to me.