How To Bridge The Great Political Divide in Your Life
We’ve got a modern-day Civil War on our hands. It’s Right against Left, brother against sister, husband against wife — or at least it is in my household.
Nowhere is the Great Political Divide more apparent than in my own home, where a man I have loved and cherished has seemingly taken leave of his senses and joined the Evil Empire. Or to paint it from his point of view, his partner-through-thick-and-thin-in-sickness-and-health has taken leave of her senses and joined the Stupid Brigade.
That’s the crux of our Political Divide — both sides are utterly convinced that truth and honor is on their side, that they wear the White Hats in this drama, and that this Great Gulf won’t be bridged until the other guy “comes to their senses.” Which neither side is likely to do.
Here’s the thing: In our current political debates, we’re not just disagreeing about policy, or about the methods and measures that should be implemented in order to bring justice and prosperity to ourselves and our country. Our political divide is undergirded by a more basic MORAL divide. We think the other guy isn’t just wrong — he or she is IMMORAL; we question their VALUES, not just their opinions.
And no one changes their values willingly or easily.
Look at the debate over the environment.
Liberals think it’s WRONG (not just unwise) to abandon restrictions that would protect our lands or our planet from being harmed by those who put their own business interests first, whether by allowing uranium mining that might contaminate parts of the Grand Canyon, or relaxing fossil fuel guidelines that are designed to protect the planet and all those who live on it.
Conservatives think it’s WRONG to sacrifice the success of businesses, and therefore the happiness and prosperity of many Americans, just for the sake of protecting an endangered species, or improving the health of someone on the other side of the planet.
So to lessen the pain of all this really rancorous debate, those of us on each side of the Divide have built ideological silos:
Liberals and Conservatives listen to their own media and distrust the other side’s media, share only sympathetic stories on their Facebook pages, and vent to like-minded friends and family. In divided households like mine, we studiously avoid talking about divisive issues, which are seemingly ALL the issues on radio, TV or the internet. We’re down to listening to smooth ajzz to keep things civil!
There it is– each side thinks the other is either unprincipled or just plain stupid. But in the interest of moving forward, both personally and nationally, we need to understand this:
No one has willing signed on to the Evil Empire. Each side has their own values, their own principles, and their own sense of what’s “right.” They’re just different values.
So if we want to start bridging our Political Divide, in order to remove the really painful rancor in our national and personal dialogues and move our country forward, we need to begin this process:
1 – GET BEYOND THE HURT AND HATRED. Realize the “other side” hasn’t been consumed by the Zombie Apocalypse, and isn’t out to ruin you or your country: he or she may wish to achieve the same goals as you (a better life for us, our country and maybe the world), but believes there is a different way to go about it.
2 – INITIATE DIALOGUE IN THE SAME LANGUAGE AS OUR NEIGHBOR. You can’t understand or persuade if you’re speaking Greek and they’re speaking Chinese. Instead, frame your arguments/opinions in their value-language.
Research shows that if he/she is on the Conservative spectrum, they recognize values such as patriotism, purity, and respect for authority. So you could argue that protecting the Grand Canyon will maintain the purity of our environment and enhance a natural wonder that is unique and special to our country.
Liberals are more likely to be persuaded if you talk in terms of fairness and equality. So explain that allowing a pipeline to be built will enable the local population to have meaningful jobs and earn an income that will improve their and their family’s quality of life, and right some historic wrongs.
This is all about establishing a dialogue to begin to bridge the gap and heal the psychic wounds.
3 – SEARCH FOR THE COMMON GROUND, INSTEAD OF RUNNING HEADLONG INTO THE OBVIOUS DIFFERENCES. In every interaction with “the other side,” always approach with empathy and respect. Know that your neighbor, friend or family member is just as concerned as you are about prosperity, happiness and right-and-wrongs. Try to talk and listen to the values they believe in, which are just as important to them, as yours are to you.
Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of each one of us to create the best future for ourselves and our country. We can’t wait for presidents or politicians to lead the way. Instead, we’ll lead from the bottom, and hope our success rolls up hill.
May The Force Be With You!