The Political Divide

There have been endless articles, tweets and videos shared over the past 2-3 years chronicling the divide between groups and individuals who don’t see eye to eye on the administration of President Donald Trump. 

Families are divided. Spouses are divided. Friends are divided. Heck, even the country is divided. 

This week I experienced the full force of this division with a close family member and it’s left me almost heartbroken, as I’m sure it’s left many people on both sides of the political debate who’ve experience similar rancor and discord over similar issues. But in this climate in our country this type of division and hurt transcends politics and party. It’s become deeply personal. 

The problem in my situation was that neither of us was willing to concede that the other had even a shred of a point that was worth considering on the issue of immigration. Our discussion escalated quickly to near-shouting and never retreated. It was ugly. 

I won’t tell you which side I’m on and which side my family member is on but I will tell you that we have disagreed on issues in the past and we’ve enjoyed the debate over policies and personalities in politics. We’ve had many “agree to disagree” moments. In the past, we’d engage in a spirited discussion, respecting each other’s viewpoints and then, when the conversation was over, we’d talk about sports or something. But this time it’s different. Each side is deeply dug in and doesn’t see much value or worth in the other person’s beliefs. That disturbs and saddens me because if my family member and I are a microcosm of the broader electorate in our refusal or inability to even accept the fact that our opponent is due a sense of decorum, then this country is in serious trouble. 

Look, we’ve been polarized as a nation before. Racial issues divided the north and south. On multiple occasions. Some would argue it still does. We’ve had deep divisions over issues regarding Native Americans, the Red Scare, etc. This country and its people are no stranger to controversy and disagreement. And politicians have long disagreed. A reading of history shows that some of the sharpest and most insidious personal attacks on political candidates came when this country was in  its infancy. As a sovereign nation. But in large measure Americans have been able to see the goodness in debate and compromise and realize that at our core we are a country united in our love for America, its freedoms and the need for a sense of common purpose to enhance the American experiment. 

In late 2018, It feels like that has changed and as much as I hope it hasn’t, I know that with tomorrow’s elections our country will continue seeing politics as bloodsport with all the verbiage of an MMA fight — who won and who lost in a series of voting battles that knocks one party down and lifts another party up in a sweeping contest that allows one to feel more powerful and fulfilled than the other. That type of rhetoric, I believe, is one of the reasons we’re in this mess. We like winners and decry losers. There’s no middle ground anymore. 

Middle ground requires compassion for people and for what political debate is — a chance to find a way to work together to solve the big problems that we ALL face. It’s not as if just one side will suffer the effects of the issues we have to grapple with. We all will and it will take the collective will of the people to fix them. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. 

My loved one and I will get past this temporary issue. We’ll find middle ground. Our bond is unbreakable just as the bond of Americans, united in a belief that even if we disagree with our opponents we can still respect each other, should be unbreakable, too. 

(Photo by Carol (vanhookc) on Foter.com / CC BY)

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