November 22, 2020

A Mindful Response to America’s Toxic & Divisive Political Climate.

People will rarely think or act exactly the way you want them to. Hope for the best, but expect less. Agree to disagree when necessary. And be careful not to dehumanize those you disagree with. In our self-righteousness, we can easily become the very things we dislike in others. ~ Marc and Angel, Twitter

Now that we are past the first leg of election day drama, there is much conversation about healing. 

Conversely, there are also discussions about lines being drawn in the sand—that common ground may never be found. In response to the toxic and divisive political climate, two clear-cut camps surround our nation’s healing: team “turn the other cheek” and team “no love for those in opposition of my interests.”

America’s forefathers wove an extremely prickly blanket for her bed of ideals. The Constitution, comingling God and country while separating them, enslaved men while espousing that “all men are created equal” and never mentioned women at all. The list could go on, but the point remains that this country has always been complicated and never without infighting.

Politics are aligned with our morals, whether we choose to acknowledge that or not. Even making that statement entangles fact and feeling. The idea is that we are emotionally triggered by the societal issues that dominate politics. There are those of us who recognize hatred and bias tucked into policies that are touted as solutions, and there are those who see the same policies as less insidious, problem-solving ventures. 

So, where do we find a happy medium in that?

As a Black, female, American, I intimately relate to questioning the morality of those who would vote against my personal interests. To me, it is unconscionable not to speak out against a government that has historically minimized and ignored rampant racism within its systems.

But, for someone who has not suffered the socio-economic and psychological effects of racism, it is hard to care. It is difficult for a liberal-leaning individual to accept a government that separates children from their parents as a deterrent to immigration. For someone who sees immigration just as a problem, it’s easier to view their government as simply “doing what it takes” to tackle that problem.

I align with not wanting to associate with those who do not see these concerns as problematic, especially racial issues.

But, the aforementioned points are far more complex than described here. My purpose is not to dissect those views, but to demonstrate two sides of the coin as I see it.

As someone who identifies as a Christian, I can also relate to the desire to move toward healing through forgiveness. As idealistic as that statement sounds, it is equally complicated. Striking a balance between disagreeing with people on things that I am extremely passionate about and moving through life with them peacefully does not come as easily as I thought. Of course, I would like to live in a society that is not so staunchly divided on political issues, but this is not the reality in America—it never has been.

I often find myself enraged by people who would deny my humanity and with those who agree with people who want to take away my right to make decisions about my body. I also find myself feeling like a hypocrite when I paint an entire group of people with a broad brush because of their political differences. With all of the things that I believe to be true—the knowledge and voices I allow to support those ideas—I have not been able to reconcile the belief that I am right and that, by virtue of disagreement, all those in opposition are terrible humans.

But, we are bombarded with media (social and otherwise) that feeds our perspective. We are fed that anything or anyone who does not support our thoughts, opinions, and ideas should be villainized and cannot be trusted. While there are some legitimate instances where one can be intolerant of harmful rhetoric and behavior, there are so many more issues. People can still come to the table and listen to one another without being obstinate to entertaining common ground. We can still make an effort to find the best pathway to a resolution.

This requires seeing the humanity in one another. Keeping respectful, compassionate dialogue flowing, whenever possible, can benefit us all. Your opinion may not be changed, but you may very well learn something that you did not know before, even if it is only a deeper understanding of why that person believes differently than you.

I do not mean to sound so confident that everyone possesses the emotional intelligence required to accomplish compassionate listening, but it never hurts to breathe that positivity into the universe. Balance is certainly necessary, and no one sums that up better than esteemed novelist James Baldwin:

“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.”

The noise we endure has become insanely overwhelming. We have all lost the patience to simply hear one another because we believe that we are the special individual who has it “all figured out.” Let’s be honest; none of us have it all figured out. None of us are experts on everything, and I firmly believe that if we are doing life “right,” we are continually growing.

Leaning into evolution requires a curious mind and acceptance of new ways of approaching life’s quandaries. The endgame does not always have to be to change someone’s viewpoint. But imagine the wave of peace we could create if we all just felt heard amid all the noise.

I have found that other humans are the most valuable currency in life. We can all be enriched by pouring our experiences and information into one another.

It is a lofty idea in today’s hyper socio-political climate, but it starts with each of us. If we continue believing in goodness for our world, we can manifest that good we wish to see.

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