There’s something far more dangerous to American society than Hillary’s corruption and Trumps harmful rhetoric, and that is our increasing inability to listen and learn from one another.
How could that be more dangerous than inept leadership? Because in America, we the people are the rulers. This is a democracy. If we don’t like a personality or a form of government, we can vote them out a few years later. But our society isn’t ousted every 4 or 6 years, patterns and habits in people become wet cement that becomes far more difficult to remove than a politician.
What scares me far more than two poor candidates is the trend I’m seeing where we’re hastily locking into our options and we’re quicker to shut down an opposing line of thinking than ever before. I’ve seen more bullying and shutting out of counter opinions than I’ve ever seen in my life during this election cycle. Statements like “If you vote for _____ or if you hold ____ HATEFUL opinion go ahead and unfriend me right now” are not only acceptable, they’ve become the norm. I’ve been blocked and had comments deleted this year that we perfectly civil that were offered in the hopes of adding to the discourse. But because that view differed from the original one given, it was deleted from the discussion immediately. That type of action is so dangerous for several reasons. When you participate in that type of behavior
1. You assume the moral high ground and give no chance to be removed from it.
2. You remain stagnant in your viewpoint because you don’t allow it to be challenged by opposing thought
3. You lose the chance to empathize with the opposing stance because you don’t open yourself up to another persons experience.
Your opinion isn’t just a set of lifeless facts, and an opposing view represents far more than a different thought, to someone else there is a life experiences that shaped that worldview that contradicts yours. Once your opinion is detached from the human who thinks different than you, you are then free to use the most damaging and harmful language without any repercussions.
Here’s what’s happening – before you’ve even shared your life experience, I’ve already labeled you. I’ve already told you why you’re hateful, dangerous, a bad christian, a bad american, racist, homophobic, or any new label from our seemingly daily updated rolodex of tags we use to define and marginalize people. I’ve decided no matter what your story is, your conclusion is invalid, but not only invalid, it is DANGEROUS and must be avoided altogether. So I’ll set up boundaries to make sure I don’t have to even think that there’s a real human that carries an opposing sentiment on the other side of my often rage filled opinions.
For americans, our political allegiance should simply represent loyalty to what we feel are the best ideas and convictions. What has happened in American politics however is loyalty to ideas and convictions has been replaced with loyalty to party lines, and loyalty to party lines have been replaced with loyalty to personalities.
One of the greatest gift democracy gives us is the ability to share ideas freely. Facebook, twitter, Instagram, blogs, all of these technological tools become an avenue for thought and ideas to be shared freely amount the governors of society, the people. But because we can control the interface of all those platforms, we can completely isolate ourselves into one worldview. We unfollow any opinion that we don’t like. We unfriend any passionate conclusions that differs from our own. We feel a false sense of security because we’re now “safe” because of the boundaries we’ve placed around us now guard us from having to feel any negative emotion that we might incur from being confronted by someone that thinks differently than we do.
Whether we are celebrating or mourning the results of this election, we need to remember that we do not see the world as it is, but rather how we are. Our lens is formed from our experience, and we have to understand our life story, emotions, and encounters aren’t more valid than the person who shares a differing worldview. I’m not saying there aren’t absolutes, I fully believe in absolutes. However, if I can’t have a civil conversation with someone across party lines without reacting emotionally, then the problem doesn’t live in that opposing view, it lives in me.
As some are celebrating democracy by protesting the result of a democratic election, I hope more of us take advantage of democracy by paying attention and learning from those who have a different response to the election results than our own. I think more empathy and compassion will cause us to dial down emotionally when political seasons get intense, heal the divide in our society, and also help us form better, more well-rounded opinions ourselves.