What If

by Alan Eggleston

Let’s play “What If” for a moment.

What if people aren’t as bad as we imagine them to be? For instance, what if red neck conservatives and white collar liberals aren’t the horrid beasts that each is sure the other is? Or what if all corporate CEOs and union bosses aren’t the corrupt leaders they are made out to be? Even, what if every billionaire campaign contributor and every community organizer isn’t the sleaze bag political partisans suppose them to be?

Shaking hands

Agreeing to disagree. Photo by Spot Us under Creative Commons license.

I’ve recently stopped reading Twitter as I watch the news and I’ve stopped watching as much political news as I used to. It’s partly an experiment and it’s partly out of being tired of getting tangled in the web of hate that is the partisan divide that the United States finds itself suffering through. And you know what? I find that I can look at people with less cynicism and with less suspicion while still using my critical thinking skills.

It’s not that I don’t question some of the things that NBC’s Chuck Todd says about Hillary Clinton while letting Republicans slide on lies or misinformation. But I don’t see everything he says as a partisan attack on Democrats. It isn’t that I don’t find Black Lives Matter organizers interrupting Democratic candidate events irritating. But I can see their point that talk is cheap and action means way more than talk, and challenging candidates at events does force their hands — it’s actually a smart tactic for a group that frankly needs action way more than words when their very lives are in danger every day in the everyday streets of America.

There are lots of things I can see more clearly when I don’t have people continually suggesting how bad “the other guys” are, when I’m not part of the tribe mentality that says it’s us versus them. As an American the us is all of us, not just “our” part of us.

The challenge is to get all the artificial tribes created by people with cynical agendas to break down the barriers long enough to come back together as one nation. Sure, we have differences of opinion. But we are all victims of the same phenomena. People who have axes to grind or power to broker or political positions to gain have divided us into tribes to benefit themselves. And until we can break down those tribes, we will continue to be at each others’ throats.

How do we stop being a nation with a deep partisan divide? We stop looking at everyone through our separate filters. We stop joining our tribes on social media. We stop focusing only on our tribal cable/satellite channels. We stop uniting around cynical visions of “the others.” It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen without effort. But it’s certainly not going to happen without the recognition that it’s happening.

So, what if? What if we agree to disagree but still seek solutions based on what we can agree on? Wouldn’t that be something?

© 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

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