Politics was never the center of my life. I’m not an avid news consumer. In fact, the only reason I’ve picked up the political awareness is that I am working on a story where one of the characters is supposed to save the world. For research purposes, I lifted my head and started paying attention to what was happening in my country.
That’s when I fell down the rabbit hole.
I now completely understand the old adage “never discuss politics or religion”.
Being a reasonably intelligent person, this sudden descent into the cut-throat arena of American politics has been... well, the best way to put it is that it’s an experience I will never forget. This is probably because our entire culture has been saturated in extreme politics. There’s simply no escaping it because it is everywhere; social media, biased news reports, protests, work places, schools, the list goes on and on. There is no middle ground in this arena; there is only right or wrong and you are on one side or the other. This extremism is ripping this country apart.
The question is are we, as a society, already too far down the afore mentioned rabbit hole? Have we come too far down this twisted path of fake news, corrupt government, and pretenses of social justice? I’d be lying if my rage at the sheer lack of common human decency we display didn’t make me wish for some sort of apocalypse. Yeah. It’s pretty messed up when it seems that the only way to fix how broken we’ve become is to nuke it all and start over.
However, despite these nihilistic thoughts, I believe there’s still a kernel of hope for us. There is a way for us to back away from this brink.
You see, what is missing from all of the online screaming and frantic keyboard warriors is the calm voice of someone who strives to understand all sides of an issue. Someone who is not extreme. Someone who understands that nothing is black and white in this world of ours. The very things that make us human- our emotions, our intelligence, our rationality, and our compassion all have a place in our dialogues. The divisiveness we are all experiencing is the direct result of no longer having the ability to balance these things. A lack of moderation. We need to put aside all of this partisan bullshit and work together towards common goals. We are sorely deficient in rational, yet empathetic voices of the average, non-politically charged American.
I am not that person yet, but I am trying to be.
What’s more, I believe that you have it in you to be one too. In fact, if we, as Americans, are going to survive this explosion of extremism, our country desperately needs everyone to be rational adults about things. We all need to change. We all need to be better.
Here’s how we can start.
1. Listen to each other respectfully and with the intent to understand. We are so caught up in the echo chambers of our own points of view that it’s easy to alienate and vilify those that don’t think like us. Stop it. Make a point to understand different opinions. Ask questions to understand. Empathize. If you don’t agree, then say politely that you disagree. That is okay. I promise, disagreeing with someone, when done in a mature fashion, does not end a relationship. Have mature, adult conversations.
2. Understand that most things on the internet and social media (especially memes and “info” graphics) are not true. Did you know anyone can put anything on the internet? As a result, it’s full of inaccuracies, opinions, and it’s a breeding ground for fake news and rumors. A good practice is to treat anything you read on social media as entertainment. Do not take it seriously. Social media is a place for fun and connecting with people. It is not a platform for social justice or divisiveness.
3. If, for some reason, you fall for that incredibly poignant political post (and believe me, I’ve been there), please oh please research it. Look the topic up in different sources. Verify all the information in it is correct. Recognize whether it is an opinion or if it is a fact. Now, this process can be very problematic. Like I said before, we are inundated with incredible amounts of biased information. Fact-checking is no longer a simple process. A good rule of thumb is to find at least 3 independent sources to corroborate the information. The more sources the better, but shoot for at least 3. Be sure to understand the sources- ask yourself is the source reputable? Does it show any bias?
4. When you feel the need to share or repost something of a controversial nature, stop. Think twice and consider the following criteria:
a. Is it fact or opinion?
b. Is it intentionally hurtful? (Examples: “stupid snowflakes”, “Nazi alt-right” “Lazy millennials”, etc.). Typically, if there’s name calling, it’s a bad idea. We are better than that, so let’s act like it.
c. Will posting this start or propel forward a meaningful conversation?
5. It’s alright to say you don’t know something and it’s not going to be the end of the world if you change your mind. These points were brought up at a recent Frank Turner show I went to. They stuck with me because it’s absolutely true. We are intelligent beings, but there is no way we can know everything about every topic. It’s human to admit that you don’t know something, but it takes real integrity to start asking questions and learning about what you don’t understand. If we don’t allow ourselves to learn, to change, to adapt with all of this new information, we will never grow beyond this point.
If everyone in America can embrace and consistently practice these 5 things, I truly believe we can turn our society around. We can stop dystopian politics in their tracks. We can stop the fake news cycles by not participating in them any longer. We can create the kind of America that we’ve always wanted, the one we’ve dreamed about.
We just have to do this together.
United We Stand,