Peace in not the absence of conflict. It is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means. -Ronald Reagan
Many social events I attended during this past fall season were attended by friends and family from both sides of the political fence. I know many people who share my ideologies and I know many people who don’t. I also know of those folks on both sides who have literally shut out the people around them who don’t view the world as they do. As someone whose main goal in life is to change the world, I know this tactic is not the answer.
I am someone who has spent a lifetime delving into the psychology of why people think the way they do. Charles Krauthammer, the late brilliant essayist, wrote about it in one of his essays published in the collection, “Things that Matter.” He said one of the biggest mistakes we make in trying to change the world is that we assume that just because someone is a human being halfway across the world, that deep down they must have the same beliefs and notions as we do. Unfortunately, it’s just not the case. The reasons people think and believe as they do is because of their experiences in life, the environment in which they were raised and how they are most basically wired within. Without a basic understanding of what makes each and every individual tick, we have no hope to change the world. Change is a process that happens one person at a time. The current political landscape demands that we take the time to truly understand each person’s perspective and why they think the way they do. Me preaching to the choir of the audience that believes what I do is not going to make a shred of difference. Real change can only happen if I can find common ground with the person who believes the complete opposite of what I do.
For those of you new to this blog, I have been in complete defiance of the Trump administration ever since he set foot on television to run for office. But I spent many a conversation this fall asking Trump supporters why they support him so that I can truly gain an understanding of why they do. I don’t believe ignoring the conversation because it might be uncomfortable helps any of us. I had also experienced through many of my blog posts this summer, that once I said I didn’t support Trump, I suddenly became responsible for every democrat’s decision over the last 50 years by the other side. I wanted to make sure I didn’t do that to the Trump supporters, i.e. hold them responsible for every ignorant thing that has ever come out of Trump’s mouth.
I certainly don’t want to give any boost here to any extremists on either side who believe in hate, for that is unacceptable. But there are good people on each side of this debate who are trying to support what they believe is right for the world. The issues are vast and complex; political platforms detail positions on many issues. A great deal of us pick a few that matter most to us and stand on that party line no matter what, because the outcome of those particular controversies have major consequences for us.
I certainly don’t have the answers. But I know that on the issues that matter most to me, there are those on the other side that have supported my causes, even though they haven’t voted in my direction. There are nuances and if we are to move forward in curing our ills, we must find the common ground. Common ground can not be found without civil discourse. Civil, intelligent, grounded and supported conversation is our only way to the future we deserve. Above all else, we must be open to hearing the whys.