Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Reluctant to bring up politics

I became politically active long before I was old enough to vote. In the beginning, my views were based on what my parents believed, but as I progressed in my education and became a debater in high school, I discovered that rarely is anything in life clear-cut and easy. I learned to research both sides of an issue and present a compelling, substantiated argument for either side. I learned to weigh pros and cons. I learned to read and listen to opinions that differed from my own without getting angry. I found politics fascinating and often hard to discern. Sometimes, if you thought about it, choosing who to vote for was hard.

This has been a strange election cycle, though. This is the first time in my whole life when I have been reluctant to bring politics up. Somewhere along the line, the norm is no longer the give and take of information, it has become agreement or dismissal. It is to label people as “good or evil,” “us or them,” “intelligent or ignorant,” and even “American or un-American.” The norm is to agree and mutually deride the other side or to disagree and dismiss, scoff, yell, spew vitriol, unfriend, stomp off mad, and avoid.

This has got to stop. We are a country of vast differences and vastly different needs. Surely, though, we can agree to try to understand one another, to care for one another, and to work together for solutions. Standing firm on principle is your right, but it is not democracy in action. Compromise is.

"When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies...

"We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

"... we can perhaps remember - even if only for a time - that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek - as we do - nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

"...Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again."

--Robert F. Kennedy, 1968

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