Tag Archives: Politics

heavyheart

Your heart is too heavy from things you carry a long time,
You been up you been down, tired and you don't know why,
-- Matisyahu, Live Like a Warrior

You can count me among the millions of sad, scared people this week. My Facebook feed is mostly split between two groups this week: those who feel the same way I do, and those who think I and the others who feel this way are reactionary whiners.

I could write for hours trying to explain why we're scared and sad, but it would be wasted time. You either already agree with me, or you are likely not listening, REALLY listening, to anything I or my scared contingent say.

That is what I see as the biggest problem we face in America today. No one is really listening to the other side. We are all mired in our own echo chambers and when someone breaks through with a message contrary to what we believe, our reaction is to attack instead of listening.

I am told there was a time in America where the concept of a loyal opposition was an accepted, even celebrated, role in politics. I can't imagine it. For my adult life, the political reality has been "if you're not with us, you're against us" which has resulted in a do-nothing Congress hell-bent on accomplishing absolutely nothing for the American people in order to block any attempted legislation by President Obama and his supporters.

I naively believed that those on the other end of the political spectrum from myself still wanted the same things for America, namely a strong economy with unlimited opportunity and equality for the American people. That even if we disagreed on the "how" we all agreed on the goal.

But we have stopped listening to each other and assuming the best in each other. We are talking over and at each other and not listening.

The Mister is a hard-core Libertarian, which results in some ... um, well, interesting conversations about politics in our home. I know that the Mister loves me dearly, and would defend me to the ends of the earth if I were actively threatened. For the last few days, he's made comments about the people who are protesting the outcome of the election that while not directed at me, felt very personal. This morning, as I was getting out of the car, he took my hand and said "I know you're scared, but remember we're in this together and we'll get through it." I almost broke down in tears right in front of my office building because that was the first time this week I've felt my feelings validated by anyone who doesn't share my fear and sadness.

I know that most people who voted for Trump are good and decent people who do not support the vile, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, mysogynist, hateful rhetoric that he was spewing. Most of the people I know who voted for Trump would never condone the verbal and physical violence that has occurred this week in the wake of the election. But instead of hearing our very real fear, I see many of you trying to convince us that we're over-reacting or whining that we lost, and in some cases even trying to prove that the verbal and physical violence isn't real. Or worse, saying things like the only proven case of violence was graffiti in schools, and that's not worth discussing. What we hear is that children terrorizing other children isn't significant.  What we hear are statements mocking our very real fear and pain.

The Democrats are guilty of this too, don't think I'm giving us a pass. The leaders of the Democrat party have become completely out of touch with the "regular" people and the struggles they deal with every day.  The party has completely failed to hear and understand what people are going through and has marginalized those who don't agree with the platform.

Let me say this loud and clear. I hear you. I get that you're worried about how to keep a roof over your head, feed your family, and get healthcare when you need it. I know that entire swaths of industry have disappeared in this country, and that it leaves you and yours scared and angry. I get that terrorism is scary, and every time something happens here in the U.S. it feeds that fear. I hear your fear, I see your anger, and I understand.

If you're a conservative voter, you and I disagree on the best ways to fix the things driving those fears. I believe that a strong safety net is necessary. I believe that a public option for healthcare that is available to every citizen is a necessity. You believe that getting the government out of it and leaving it to the market is the best way to fix it. You believe the way to deal with issues of discrimination and hatred in this country is for everyone to just get along and quit talking about the issues.  I look at the history of discrimination and hatred in this country and believe that protections need to be established.  We disagree, and that should be OK. But instead, I get labeled a Socialist, you get labeled a Fascist when neither term means anything close to what we're trying to say.

If we could just talk to each other, and really listen to what the other person is trying to say, I believe we could find solutions that would work for both of us. But when the labels and judgment come out, there's no more communication.

That's when the political machine comes in, spreading lies and distraction to push us even farther apart. When we can't even agree on the facts, and issue moral judgment against the person who disagrees, nothing can be accomplished.  Fear and hatred are magnified, and the machine doesn't want us to find common ground.

If I could wave a magic wand and change anything about the politics in our country, it would be to close this entrenched gulf. I would not, in fact, wish that everyone thought the same way I do. I firmly believe that it is our differences that make us stronger. I believe that the strongest leader keeps people around them who disagree about what to do. I would just wish that we could once again embrace the loyal opposition, and figure out how to disagree in a civil and respectful manner.

There is a common saying in my UU faith which I wish for our country:

We need not think alike to love alike. *

This is my prayer for each of us.

 

* The quote is frequently attributed to Francis David, but arguably originated with John Wesley (founder of the Methodist church) so correct attribution is difficult.

I didn't get a chance to watch President Obama's State of the Union address live last night. As with so much of my news, I read it online. I just read the transcript of the SotU address, and I continue to be impressed with President Obama. He took an opportunity to make his last SotU address one to remember. He tackled the political issues of the day with thoughtfulness and insight. I've seen a lot of criticism about his speech online today, and it saddens me. Not that people criticize him or what he said, but that it is done with such hate and vitriol. I am tired of having our President called an idiot, tired of having his patriotism and commitment to this country called into question. President Obama is one of the most educated, eloquent, and thoughtful presidents we have had in a very long time. It's okay, expected even, to criticize what he has to say and disagree with his politics. But to denigrate his accomplishments and integrity because you disagree with him is vile. Yet it has become pervasive in our culture.

My friends and family represent a full cross-section of the political spectrum. I have Bible and Constitution thumping conservatives, Ayn Rand spouting libertarians, FDR loving progressives, Marxist socialists, and every flavor and variation in between represented in my Facebook feed. While some would argue, I in fact fall a very little to the left of center. Those who call my political opinions and stands to be ill-informed are flat-out wrong. I read and listen to every opinion posed, and try to see beyond the rhetoric and vitriol to see the value in the proposal. Sometimes I don't find much value, but the difference is that I do not assume that the person espousing the opinion is stupid or hateful or hates this country. I wish I could say the same of every person whose opinions I am exposed to.

I know enough history to know that the polarization of politics is nothing new. Nor is the vitriol and hatred spewed at those who disagree with the speaker. There have been times that our country was as divided politically as we are now, and the political rhetoric was just as vile between the political camps. I also know that those periods historically have also preceded some pretty nasty violent times. So I don't have to like it, or accept that it's inevitable, just because there is precedent.

What troubles me more than the vitriol is that the various political camps cannot even agree on the most basic facts, which means finding common ground is nigh unto impossible. That we have media outlets deliberately distributing untruths as true facts is both damaging and indicative of where we are as a country. When the attitude is factored in that if you don't agree with me that you are trying to destroy America, it guarantees that the divide will only worsen. Ultimately, it is not a good thing for our country, and certainly not for interpersonal communications.

I don't expect that anyone will change their minds because of what I write, but my hope is that I might get even a couple of the extremists in my circle of friends and family to stop and think. I love America, and want to see the country grow and succeed. If you believe that I am stupid or ill-informed because of the things I believe will help the country and my fellow Americans do just that, or worse that I want to destroy the country because of them... then I have to wonder why you would want to have anything to do with me. Is it because you think you can "save" me by educating me, or getting me to see things your way? Or do you think you can out-shout me, or intimidate me into supporting your opinions? Either way, you must not think much of me as a person. You certainly have no respect for me based on that position.

I was taught that conservatives and liberals all want the same thing - to live in the best country on Earth with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That they simply disagree on the ways to make that happen. When we start assuming that those who oppose us are evil, or at the very least stupid, we lose what makes us a great nation and society. What will it take to get back to the place where we can disagree without the hate and vitriol?

I usually try to find an upbeat way to end my posts, and today I just can't.  So I'll leave it here, and hope that the comments posted will revive my faith in my fellow humans.