“Democracy doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice. It doesn’t work if we think our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.”
-President Barak Obama, 1/12/16
Within this statement by our President, I find a truth that drives straight to the heart of what’s wrong with nearly all political discourse in the United States.
But before I get to that, allow me to answer a few objections…
“We are not a Democracy, we’re a Constitutional Republic!”
Point taken. Humor me however, because the veracity of that statement doesn’t in any way affect the point I’m trying to make.
“But Obama [insert a contradictory statement or action]!”
I have no doubt numerous examples of our President contradicting this statement could be given. Again, that doesn’t affect the truthfulness of the statement in and of itself.
“Fuck Obama! He’s a Muslim loving… [blah blah blah]!”
You’re a moron, and the poster child for exactly the point I’m going to make.
Over the last several years, I’ve developed a growing interest in politics and economics. My Facebook news feed is reflective of this. Not only do I see numerous political posts from news outlets I “like” every time I open my Facebook, but my friends frequently post political stuff as well.
In viewing all this political stuff I’ve noticed a common theme. A theme picked up on (and rightly criticized) by the above quote. A theme which is woven into the discourse by nearly all positions on the political spectrum and it goes something like this:
Everyone who disagrees with me is evil.
Really? Is that really the case? I doubt it.
You see, I have friends all over the field politically; and I call them friends not in the Facebook sense, but in the real world sense… they are really my friends. I wouldn’t label them as such if I thought they wanted to do my family, or the nation in which we reside, harm.
Do I disagree with them, sometimes vehemently, on what needs to happen politically in this country for the betterment of all? Absolutely.
Do I think they hold the positions they do because they have some secret motivation to destroy America and bring about the ruin of Western Civilization? Umm… no.
You know what I do when I see them post something political that disagrees with my philosophy?
I read it… maybe a couple of times. I think about it. I compare it to what I know to be true and see where the inconsistencies lie – either on their part or mine.
In short, I try to honestly put myself in their shoes and see if their position makes any sense.
Because my interest in politics goes beyond mere sophistry. I’m not trying to win arguments and belittle my opponents simply for the sake of winning arguments and belittling my opponents. Been there, done that.
…and also because I’m fallible. I don’t have all the answers and neither do you, and how are we – each of us, individually – going to grow in our knowledge of the political playing field and the ideologies on it, if we don’t at least take the time to seriously look at it.
My interest in politics is an interest in the people of this nation. My interest in politics is an interest in my country, my state, my neighbors, my family… and what’s best for all of us.
My interest in politics is an interest in humanity and its collective prosperity; and such being the case, it seems grossly counterproductive to dehumanize all those who disagree with me on how that prosperity is achieved.