One of the greatest gifts in my life is having beloved friends and family who hold political beliefs which oppose mine. The reason is — it holds me accountable for my own self-righteousness. It helps me to stop judging them, and to remember that loving these people is more important than being “right”. As a former Republican, one of the most shocking realizations I’ve had from being in online unity groups, was hearing former Democrats admit that they believed their party was “morally superior” to Republicans. When I step back and look at the bigger picture (I wish more people would do this), I see that we’re all the same. We’ve all had these feelings. We are all the same.
No rational person wants to be categorized along with the extremists in the group they most identify with. Extremists should never have been allowed to define us, the majority. The extremists are exactly the same as the extremists on the opposing side. They are different from those of us who choose civility over emotional reactions. At least so far. But emotional reactions can be a disease — and they can spread. Left or right, the extremists have let fear, victim mentality, and a sense of vengeance, dictate their actions. They are obsessed with, and have become pawns of their own overblown, illogical emotions. ON BOTH SIDES of our political divide.
Even very middle-ground moderates can’t help but empathize with the extremists more on one side than the other, however. And that’s where the trouble starts. If you wouldn’t bully or threaten someone else in your real life…if that’s a line you would not cross…then why would you encourage and support those who have chosen to do such things, just because they’re on “your side”?
We, The People, can choose to step away from identifying with the extremists. This is not only our right as human beings, but it is our obligation.
I hear a lot of frustration from friends of all political beliefs, and talk of “giving up”. It is tempting, and easy , to join in with the hate. And oh, doesn’t it feel good to believe you’re “right”? To believe that you — wise, scientific-minded you — are in the “right”? What does that do for our country? Does being “right” give our nation’s citizens peace, basic necessities, a secure and good quality of life? Are you sure your side is “right” and the other is undeniably wrong? Really? You’re positive? Even taking into account the absurdity of our lives right now, the fear of death, disease, riots, misinformation, slander, published outright lies, a crashing economy, and all the unasked-for vitriol from puppeteers-in-power?
This summer, there were endless cries of “have compassion” and “think of others — stop being selfish” in terms of Covid reactions to increasing mandates. The vast majority of us supported and exercised compassion and empathy by wearing masks and accepting the temporary lockdowns. Wearing a mask and practicing space are easy to do when we are thinking of others above ourselves. Can we not also see that it is our responsibility now, to cease the bitterness and blame? To stop the self-righteous attitude, words, and even internal judgments, in order to protect our fellow citizens’ emotional health and security of safety?
Since this latest election event, I’ve heard “this is about wrong vs right” justifications, more times than I cared to. No. This is not about wrong vs right. It’s much bigger than that. This is about the destruction of our country, and the remnants of any peace and security we might still be able to hang onto. This is about being a good person. For real. Not just in social media posts, in image, or only in regards to “your side”. It’s about actually caring about people. All people, regardless of their politics.
For all of us, it starts on a personal level. Just like we all must wear masks to protect our society’s susceptible members, we should also exercise authentic compassion for the betterment of all society members. Compassion inside your mind and reflected in your actions. Stop with the mocking and the ugliness, and use all that reason and logic that you are so proud of, to override your own emotions and remind yourself to stop judging. Reach out to those who think politically different than you. If you don’t have anyone left in your life with opposing viewpoints, then join a unity group. Start listening. No, really. Start listening. We need each other. We are in a civil war already. We have all the warning flags we need — signs of escalating violence from both sides this past year. We need to unite.
Without a leader to help influence unity, it is up to us individuals to lessen our divide. This disease of hate has infected our nation for far too long. It doesn’t matter who you blame for that hate. What matters is that you put it away and start listening to the other side. I believe we have a chance to grow back a “We the People” unity in our country, from ground-level personal relationships. And god, I hope a healthy, unifying leader rises up from that.
I dare impose my wish on all of you, that you use your words and relationships to unite instead of fanning the flames. To step into the political ring with humility, and loudly encourage less judging and more understanding. Take action and gracefully reach out to those who oppose your politics. Yes. Yes, you can. And it is absolutely your responsibility to do so.