Our country is reeling from the ideological clashes surrounding the current elections. Tensions are high. Language is bitter and caustic. Civility appears unattainable.
Vote counts show our country nearly equally divided. How has it come to this? We have become cloistered in our separate bunkers, vilifying and being vilified by the “other side.” Labels like “fascist” and “socialist” separate us even more, closing down dialogue and inquiry. It seems as though we inhabit different realities. Is there any way to return to a saner discourse?
How divergent are the perspectives and worldviews held by members of
our community? When you go by someone’s yard and see a sign for a political candidate other than the one you favor, does it seem that the person living there is an enemy or a neighbor or both? Is one person affronted by another’s very existence? Do you believe that your own perspective could be understood by someone across a great divide of opinion?
Some people see the “divide” as a white supremacist backlash against progressive successes; some see it as a manifestation of the “fake” media sources people consume; some see it as a concerted effort to destroy ‘good old American tradition,’ and so on. Can there possibly be some tiny island of shared reality among people with such drastically divergent views?
Regardless of who our elected officials are, the job of healing this country is also up to each of us. Listening only to our respective “choirs,” to media that only mirrors what we already think, clinging to labels that demonize those not in our camp, only reinforces the chasm between us, keeps our anxiety levels high, our suspicion and distrust ever vigilant. Perhaps we need to take some brave steps and open up a conversation, listening for our common humanity. Perhaps we are more alike than we are different.
Even if we are inhabiting different realities, we can still come together to clean up a park or a stream, or shop together at a local produce stand, or watch our children play together at a playground. Can we learn how to value civility and still resist an unjust status quo? Can we recognize vast inequities and our own hand in maintaining them while also striving to recognize the humanity in each person?
Sometimes our goals may seem mutually exclusive—who should serve on the Supreme Court, whether to build a dam or a bridge over a park, and so on. Living in community isn’t always easy. Honest and open conversations aren’t always comfortable. Finding the best solution for the mutual benefit of all can sometimes require the wisdom of Solomon! Isn’t the result worth the effort?
Transition Town Media believes in the power of community to create a future where we all thrive, valuing our differences because diversity is strength. Regardless of radically divergent ideologies, don’t we all want clean water for our children, a comfortable life free from need, the freedom to pursue satisfying work, and a sense of belonging to a community that cares about us? We can achieve so much more if we work together.
A community can only thrive if all of us can thrive. We can start by reaching across the great divide, starting a dialogue, listening deeply for those goals we have in common, finding the common humanity where we have blinded from seeing it.
We think we’ll all feel better—and be better—for it. This is one stance, perhaps you have another. If you’re interested in a dialogue, please contact us at info@TransitionTownMedia.org.