For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton’s law is as good an explanation as any for what is going on in American politics these days. With two months left to go, the red and the blue armies, the colors of this political civil war, are exaggerating, misrepresenting and just plain lying about each other while accusing the other side of doing exactly what they are doing.
Like many people, I’ve got far too emotionally involved for my own good. Sure, I’ve got an opinion about who I’ll vote for, and who I trust least. I have expressed that opinion elsewhere. People have either pushed back or agreed with me, depending on their own opinions. On rare occasions, there might be some actual debate about why someone would be better for America, but mostly what I see are negative image bites (images with written sound bites) that disparage the opposing party and are seldom fair, balanced, honest, or accurate.
Watching the conventions, you can see delegates swept up in a campaign frenzy, like fans at some major sporting event rooting for their team to obliterate the other one. But this ain’t Monday Night Football. A decision is about to be made that will affect over 300 million people (not counting the rest of the world). At this point it appears as though many people will not be mindful about making that decision. Instead, it will be a reactionary decision, pushing against the candidate least liked, with the other candidate getting the vote by default.
Maybe it’s just the wisdom of hindsight kicking in, but I can’t remember a time when the country has suffered such a debilitating polarization. I get a sense that people are fed up with the system, the politics, the cynical deceit. There are constant negative messages from both sides, meant to instil fear of the other, to put themselves in power, and to distract people from realizing that no one has a clear answer to the 21st century challenges we all face. But they do know how to push your buttons.
How long does it take to push against a stone wall before it moves? Longer than November, I think. We need to get away from this polarization, this “us or them” mind-set. Frankly, we need to apply that to the entire planet, but what hope do we have if we can’t even get the Republican and Democratic leaders to stop sticking their tongues out and making faces at each other.
What we do have is ourselves. Just for today, don’t push. Listen, be open, empathize, understand, seek truth, find the common ground.