It’s been a tough year, my dudes. This tax bill. Police brutality being exposed. Police brutality being dismissed. Racial tension. Gender equality. Kneeling during the anthem. Net neutrality getting repealed. Every famous person we love being outed as a sexual assaulter. Our president. Guys, our fucking president. There’s probably a million other shitty things that happened this year that I can’t even remember. Whether we agree politically or morally, we can all agree this has been a hard year for America.
It seems like every political issue this country has had has brought us to the brink of another civil war. Granted, I only have 26 years of life experience, but I’ve never seen this level of divisiveness before. And not just a country divided, but a country who hates each other. There has been a negative outpouring from both sides of the aisle, and all it’s doing is causing more anger, fear, and dissent. You can disagree with a political party, and hate it even, without putting that hatred on the half of the country that voted differently than you. My liberal leanings and disagreement with our president has been well-documented in my columns, and yet I’ve found myself defending Republicans against friends and family that only know their Democrat bubble. Not the political party, but the people. The voters. The everyday citizens, who, when you get down to it, are all pretty similar.
What do most people in this country (and probably the world) want, when you boil it down? Happiness? Health? Food for their family, and opportunities for their kids? A place they can call home? Enough money to not live in constant stress and fear? Those are all simple concepts, and, for the most part, all-encompassing. Sure, you get some people who want to control others, to instill fear, or to own the world. But they are few and far between. Most Americans want simple things like health, happiness, and security for their family. The difference, of course, lies in how to best achieve those things. What some think will help, others think will hurt. I’m not going to touch on what I think is the right answer, partly because I’m tired of arguing, and partly because, hell, I don’t even know half the time. I’m just trying to illustrate how similar we all are, regardless of race, religion, gender, or even political leanings.
In a time where every political discussion turns into a screaming match (or more accurately, a Facebook comment war), it’s easy to think of the other side of the aisle as “the enemy.” Democrats call Republicans dumb racists. Republicans call Democrats elitist and hypocritical. And round and round it goes, breeding hatred and distrust. All it takes to break the cycle, I’ve found, is to sit down and meet “the enemy.” My girlfriend’s parents are Republican Trump supporters, and some of the kindest people I have ever met. They are intelligent and college-educated. They are not racist, or homophobic, or sexist. I’m a liberal Democrat with two immigrant parents. Reading the news, you’d think our meetings would devolve into a full-blown fistfight within minutes. And yet, the opposite is true (and not just because her dad could easily whoop my ass). We get along great. They’re funny, smart, caring people, and I’m occasionally not an asshole. We are respectful and thoughtful of each other’s opinions. And that’s it. That’s the big secret to fighting divisiveness in this nation.
Of course, it’s not as easy as all that. Humans are tribal creatures. We subconsciously crave a group to be a part of, and therefore, an enemy to hate. We’re naturally inclined to think of the world as “us” versus “them.” But we have to let that go, and focus on our biggest strength and what we most have in common – our love for this country. Because you can believe, everyone on both sides of the argument loves this country. Nobody would be arguing if they didn’t. Whether you go to a support rally or take to the streets in protest, the fact that people are out there doing something means that they care about this nation and want it to be its best.
When you find yourself on the opposite side of an argument, remember who you’re arguing against. By all means, take action. Call your representatives. Tweet mean things to them if you want. But don’t hate your fellow citizen. Instead, try and understand them. Sit down with them, listen to their points of view, and respectfully share your own. Believe me, I know that’s way harder to do than I’m making it seem, but doing the right thing is hard. Blind hate and judgment are easy. It feels good. It feels like tribal loyalty. But don’t we all have the same tribe? Showing kindness, attempting understanding, and staying respectful is hard. It might not feel good in the moment. Hell, it might even feel like you’re “losing” or “cowering before the enemy,” but you’re not. You’re using the greatest tool you have to defeat the common enemy which are a divided country, ignorance, and fear.
I know this is tough advice, and I sure don’t follow it all the time. I make mistakes, get angry, and attack others. But I’m trying to get better. I’m trying to remember the biggest problems are misinformation and lack of diversity. People who only get their news from one source are putting themselves in an echo chamber and refusing to hear other sides of the argument. That’s weak. If you never take the time to meet people who hold opposite opinions than you and listen to them, it’s a lot easier to dismiss their claims as ignorant. And all that says is that you’re so scared of having your mind changed that you’d rather just live in blissful ignorance. To me, that seems like you’re not too sure that your opinion is right.
We live in the golden age of information, so use it to your advantage. Broaden your horizons. See the humanity in others and let them see the humanity in you. Work together to make this country, and our lives, better. Don’t work against each other and solve nothing. This year has been hard, but together, maybe we can make next year a little better. Hang in there, America..