Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Take a step to the left, Take a step to the right...

Every four years the political theater known as presidential elections fascinates me.  Using deception and distraction the politicians on either side divide our already overly polarized country even further than it already is.  In this endeavor media is complicit whether it be the stories they choose to tell or focus on or how they spin those stories they drive the wedge that separates us from one another even deeper.

The thing is we Americans have more in common with one another than the media or our politicians would like to admit.  Whether your politics lie to the left or right end of the political spectrum they are rooted in distrust.  Those on the left distrust corporate America-- the big money that oils the machine that runs our country.  Given the events of 2008, I honestly can't say that I disagree.  They see big money as taking more and more of the pie and leaving less and less for them.  Those on the right distrust the government.  They see every expansion of government-- even if those expansion are to their benefit in some way as encroachments of their individual freedoms.  They resent a government that claims it knows better what is best for them than they know what is best for themselves.

Each side claims they are the true Americans that uphold the ideals of the Founding Fathers.  Those on the Left see their challenging of authority to be reminiscent of how our Founding Fathers challenged the authority of the British Crown when they declared Independence.  Those on the Right see the Founding Fathers distrust of a government from afar seeking to rule and tax them unfairly as being reminiscent of their own distrust of government today.

Those on the Right and Left also share a desire for fairness... They just have very different ideas of what "fair" means.  Those on the Left feel it's unfair that some are rich, while others struggle to make ends meet, or are even homeless... that there's enough wealth to go around.  Those on the right feel that wealth is earned, it is the fruit of their hard labors and re-distributing what they have worked hard to earn to those who did not work for it is unfair.  There's some legitimacy to both claims of fairness.

In the end, as Americans, we all want what is best for this country.  That is something we share.  Where we differ in are our definitions and views of what actually IS best for this country.  Our President, regardless of party affiliation has an incredibly difficult and often thankless job and no matter what a given president does he/she is going to piss off about half the country.  Both Presidents I have liked and presidents I did not care for have wanted what is best for this country.  They have had varied styles of leadership and I believe even when some of them were in the wrong they believed they were doing what they were doing for the right reasons.

The issues aren't all us vs. them...  That is a construct of the media and those that are in power for themselves and know the only way to hold onto that power is to pit us against one another.  In the age of social media we are drawn like magnets to our differences, to the things that separate us and continue to polarize us.  As a country we used to look for our similarities first, it caused us to see each other as people, as fellow humans.  It gave us empathy for one another through shared experience.  If we watched the same TV shows, listened to some of the same music, shared at least some common interests it made it harder for us to hate or dislike one another.  However, now we label one another.  As soon as one identifies himself/herself as a Liberal or a Conservative, as a Republican or Democrat-- the rest of that person's personality, worldview, etc. is assumed.  They are instantly identified as either a potential friend or adversary.  But the fact remains that there are both good and bad people at each end of the political spectrum.  A political affiliation does not define you-- it's not who you are, it's merely a small part of a greater whole.  There's more to all of us than our political views.  To make assumptions based on whether one carries the banner of the Elephant or of the Donkey is an act of laziness, an unwillingness to take the time to get to know one another better.  It's difficult enough in non-election years.  In election years battle lines get drawn and our differences are magnified and drive us farther apart.

I'm saying this as nothing more than a friendly reminder in an election year-- the time when the inertia of the divisiveness of the election cycle makes it increasingly more difficult to remember this; we're ALL Americans, we ALL want what is best for this country.  Rather than focusing on our differences, why not put forth the effort to find our common ground?  Why not start in the middle-- find our similarities, our commonalities, all of the things that we share and start from a place of agreement?

No comments: