First, I want to acknowledge that, as a straight white male, I’m living life, objectively, on easy-mode. I understand that, and I actually agree with it. I’m privileged. That inherent privilege, however, doesn’t preclude me from being informed, or from having informed opinions. It only precludes some from taking those opinions seriously, and that’s okay too.
Second, I acknowledge that I’m not an expert. I don’t have degrees in politics, sociology, or psychology. I’ve never experienced life as a woman, or a minority, or struggled with a culturally oppressed sexuality. I don’t have those experiences, and so it’s important that I seek out those who have, and who do, and LISTEN to them, with the intention of learning and better understanding their subjective experiences, thereby better informing my own opinions.
By posting my thoughts on social media, I am in no way implying that I’m more right than anyone else, or that I’m even certain that I’m right at all. I believe these ideas have merit, and I want to submit them to the forum and expose them to opposition. I want to foster open-minded dialogue and fruitful, constructive discussion toward the ultimate, ideal end of collectively finding something as close to objective truth as we can – or maybe, at the very least, just build a momentary bridge of humanity through cooperation toward that end.
“All conservatives are ignorant, racist, sexist, nationalist bigots who care nothing for marginalized groups and only want to turn America into a white Christian nation.”
“All liberals are whiny, smug, tree-hugging, unemployed elitists who want everything for free but don’t want to work for it. They don’t know how the world really works.”
“Eric is a vague, fence-riding, privileged idealist, and probably a closeted conservative/liberal who dresses up a large vocabulary as actual substance and mentally masturbates from his TLDR soapbox of moral elitism. He will never understand the truth until… well, until he agrees with me.”
Are those statements objectively true? We could certainly break them down and find cases where they would be, in part or in whole, but we could probably find just as many cases where they aren’t true, both in part and in whole.
When ten people, or even 100 or 1,000 people, post absurd statements on Twitter, is it indicative of the overall sentiment of our nation? Or is it indicative of the sentiments of those that posted it?
When two people resort to physical violence over opposing political ideologies, is it representative of their entire party’s degradation and depravity? Or are they just two people who would’ve found one reason or another to cross a line they kinda wanted to cross anyway?
The way we’ve waged this war has gotten ugly. We don’t discuss, we shout at each other and throw links back and forth and claim that if only the other side would read this or understand that, they’d get it. When’s the last time someone read a book you angrily threw at their face?
We post examples of the other side doing or saying awful things, and we claim, definitively, that it represents the pervading mindset of the entire other half of the country. We speak in broad, sweeping statements and we globalize and reduce the other side to an unflattering stereotype. Then, we blame them for not accepting the gift of knowledge we so graciously offered.
Someone I love and admire to the fullest extent that I can do either once asked me, in the middle of an ugly, heated argument, “What is your goal right now, and are your actions conducive to that goal?”
My ultimate goal was to be happy. To be at peace. To love, and be loved. Why, then, was I shouting at her and saying such awful things?
If your goal is just to piss the other side off and further the divide, then the current rules of engagement should stand. If our goal is to change the hearts and minds of the people we share this country with, and to find a common ground from which we can work together toward a common good, maybe we need to rethink our strategy.
Don’t lay down and accept the change you don’t want to see. Protest it. Take concrete steps to change it. Talk about it. Get angry. Get passionate. Make art. Share ideas. Tell your story. Listen to others’ stories. Identify where things went wrong and work to reverse it, or learn from it and avoid it in the future. However, unless your goal involves killing the other side, oppressing and silencing them, or running them out of the country, we’re going to have to figure out how to work together, or at least how to engage in civil discourse to not only better understand one another, but educate one another in a way that inspires us to actually listen.
I’m not the first person to say this, but I’m one more person saying it: identify your goal and make sure your words and actions are conducive to that goal.
But, what do I know?