I wanted my first sentence of this post to be:
I hate the party system.
Yet, it's not just the party system. As humans, we migrate to those most like us. It is one of the ways we find normalcy and comfort. Yet, then there are those who play upon that and use it to their advantage in building their "side." Most people are easily drawn into this without even knowing it's happening.
I speak from experience. I battle it every single day. We all look for connection ... our tribe ... our peeps. It isn't just Republicans and Democrats. It is one football team against another. It is those who live in the country against those who live in town. It is the Drama Department against the Athletic Department. It is one side of the street against the other. It is the boys against the girls.
I did not expect the nation to be united upon hearing the news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. I was not even united in my own heart. My feelings still shift and change. Yet, what truly grieved me last night (and continues to this morning) was to watch all of us fall right back into the same pattern.
Here is what I hate about divisiveness, and what I see in our party system. Here is why I want to say, "I hate the party system":
It functions best (in our favor) when we despise the other side. Period.
When we are working to choose a candidate for our party's ticket, each person is meticulously severed and destroyed. The best way to get people to vote for your person is to make sure they absolutely loathe the other person. It's fact. Just talking about strengths is not enough to win an election. We must destroy the other person.
Then, by the time a presidential election rolls around, we have to work night-and-day to change the reactions of those who now dry heave at the mention of the name on the party's ticket. We can't undo and erase our saturation of slander, so we use the same process to go after the person running for the other party. It is ugly. It is destructive. Many times it is outright false. It leaves us completely and utterly divided. This, then, trickles down to our decision making, our relationships and our public and private conversations. We have no more common ground.
Over the weekend, I posted a talk by Kathryn Shulz. She hurt me deeply with some of the things she said - because she shone a massive spotlight on how my natural instincts can be ... wrong ... hurtful. She talks about our belief that we are right, and how we then try to explain why others disagree with us. Shulz exposes (SPOTLIGHT) how most of use a "series of unfortunate assumptions" to do this:
1. The Ignorance Assumption. We assume they don't have access to the same information we do, but if they did, SURELY we would agree. When we then discover that, in fact, they DO have the same information, we move to the second assumption.
2. The Idiocy Assumption. We have to think that they have all the information they need, but must be too stupid to figure out what is right. Yet, sometimes this involves people we know and we can't ignore the fact that we believe some of these people actually have a reasonable degree of intelligence. So, we then move along to a third assumption to solidify our rightness.
3. The Evil Assumption. "They know they truth, and they are deliberately distorting it for their own malevolent purposes."
I don't know the solution. I don't actually believe there is one. We will always be human. I guess I am hoping, praying, wishing, yearning that more of us would work harder to fight against these natural tendencies. I'm willing to keep trying. I believe that would make a dent. I really do.
(photo by B S K, used with permission)