It is no secret that our political atmosphere feeds off of divisiveness and inflammatory statements. The loudmouth gets the attention. Whether or not we need to accept this as a fact that will always be is a subject matter for another day. Overwhelmingly, most voters find this environment to be a big problem. Unfortunately, most voters are also highly likely to respond to the same political tactics they claim to despise. One problem is that it is dirty when the other guys are doing it, but it is simply truth telling when our own team plays the game.
What I truly have a big problem with is the assigning of ill intentions behind the actions or policies we disagree with. People on all parts of the political spectrum are guilty of it. To the conservative, a liberal wants to take all of the money from hard working Americans and give it away so that the poorest do not feel compelled to add to society. The evil liberals hate innovation, hard work, and good ole’ American values where everyone can be vastly successful by simply pulling up their bootstraps and getting a job. To the conservative, it’s not that the liberal simply has a different perspective on what is the best way to help everyone live the American dream, it’s that they hate American values and hate the rich and the successful.
To the liberal, the conservative wants to hoard all of the money and has no interest in caring for those who fall through the cracks. The conservative hates minorities, want to see their rich friends make more and more money, and only see the working class and the poor as commodities to be exploited until they die — there will always be more having babies to keep the cycle going. To the liberal, it’s not that the conservative may simply have a different perspective on how best to make the decisions that will benefit our future, it’s that they only care about their own interests and everyone else be damned.
And we all feed on it. Pundits encourage this attitude. The media gives the most vile examples of so-called “leaders” the most attention. And we emulate it by repeating what we hear without any attempts to verify what is claimed to be fact, and repeating the personal attacks about the caricatures created in the place of the the flesh and blood human beings putting themselves out there as public servants.
The liberal wants to see the government take away everyone’s guns because they hate the Constitution. It certainly couldn’t be that too many tragedies have lead to a desire to evaluate what can be done and what the causes are.
The conservative wants to be able to own whatever weapon they please and collateral damage in our society be damned. It certainly couldn’t be an honest concern that the taking of rights can be a slippery slope.
None of these points are meant to express that the perspectives are the proper way to move forward. That is why honest, respectful, reasoned debate is what we need more than ever, and what is painfully lacking. The first step is facing someone you disagree with with respect and an honest expectation that they come from a point of real desire to see their community and their country served best. You may differ on what that path looks like — and we need disagreement to keep extremes in check. However, assuming the worst of intentions are behind their ideas is not productive. It is not mature. It is not how we get past an environment where the opposition is treated like the enemy.