There was some dissension, mainly from Republicans who wanted to know why I didn’t write a similar piece to my Democrat friends. My answer was, and will remain, that I am not a registered Democrat. Of course there are things I wish the Democratic party would do differently. But it wasn’t my goal to start dialogue with members of the “opposing side”, so to speak.
Perhaps. But I would like to believe there is hope. I truly believe that we can turn things around… but I also believe it will take work, compromise and, wait for it… everyone NOT getting what they want, to make it happen.
5 Things We Can All Do To Stop Political Vitriol
1) Quit the name calling.
Everyone. It does not matter if you think the name calling was worse with a previous President, or that it is out of control now. Mud has been slung from each and every direction… no party is exempt. We are all guilty, and we should all be ashamed. It is juvenile, does nothing to move things forward, and teaches our children some really poor lessons. “Hey, Timmy. Don’t call Susie names at school, that is bullying. But please ignore me while I call this politician a stupid, poo-poo head.”
Can we all agree to just stop? No getting back at the other side for what they said or did in the past. No saying stuff behind closed doors when we think no one hears. No poking fun because it is the popular thing to do. We want our politicians to be respected, influential leaders. Let’s start treating them that way. If they don’t meet our expectations, we can prove our point at the polls, not by acting like mean girls.
2) Leave religion out of it.
Once again I feel the need to duck and run for cover by typing those words. Religion is an important aspect of many people’s lives. Many Americans consider themselves to be religious people. And many Americans do not. That is why religion must be left out of political discussions. When we are creating policy or legislating because of religious beliefs, we will always be creating a divide. Period.
I have heard lots of comments about how it is impossible for Christians to separate their beliefs from the way they vote. Admittedly, I can’t understand that. We live in a country that strongly believes in freedom of religion. If we want everyone to have that freedom, we can not push any religious agenda on anyone in the context of running our government.
And lest you think I am just picking on Christians here. If you are not of the Christian faith, if you don’t hold any religious beliefs at all… please leave religion out of the conversation too. Stop automatically assuming people believe what they do because of their faith. I have people yell at me (online, IN CAPS, *shudder*) because they ASSUME I am a Christian. I have my own personal struggles with my faith, and do not associate with a certain one at this point. My political beliefs are not rooted in Christian faith. Quit assuming.
3) Stop focusing on our own agendas.
And please… stop throwing the tomatoes. This will NOT be a popular opinion, but I truly believe that Americans have stopped caring about what is best for the entire country, and are only laser focused on the issues that directly affect their families or special interest groups. And that is destroying the political process. Hear me out:
We are fast to fuss at politicians for not getting anything done. Raising my hand here… guilty as charged. I do believe they need to do a better job. But how much of them being hopelessly deadlocked on issues is our fault? Have we not screamed at them from all sides so loudly that we have rendered them virtually useless? Sure, we say (myself included, again) that we want them to stop worrying about poll numbers and election results and just do their jobs. And then, in the same breath, we scream “If you do not do what WE want RIGHT NOW we WILL NOT elect you… and furthermore we won’t elect anyone else in your party!”
What? Now tell me how in the hell that is ever going to work? I will give two examples: marriage equality for the LGBT community, and the right to life movement. Both have groups on either side of their issue that are adamant about what they believe to be right. And both sides have people screaming at politicians about what they expect them to do.
Am I saying that those who are fighting for marriage equality should stop, or that people who believe abortion is murder just stop believing that for the sake of the country? No. I am not. But I am suggesting that perhaps there is another way to go about it:
What if both political parties were to sit down and make a list of the 10 most pressing issues from their point of view? One party might include marriage equality, defense spending, health care reform, and economic growth on their list. The other party might include immigration reform, defense spending, abortion, and economic growth on theirs. The rest of the list may not have a single thing in common. But guess what? There are two things on that list that both parties agree ARE important. Does that mean that the other issues might need to be set aside, briefly so that forward progress can be made? Yes. Perhaps. Start with the two both sides CAN agree on and then…
4) Stop screaming, and start listening!
Look, we found something we can both agree is a priority. That does not mean we are going to agree on how to fix it. Take economic growth. Make another list. What are the 10 things each party feels can make a difference. There is bound to be one thing on those two lists that match. If not? Make a list of 20, or 30… until you find the COMMON GROUND. In several political discussions as of late I have witnessed people actually listening to one another instead of always thinking about how they are going to respond to further their agenda and beliefs. And in every single case, the folks, on very opposite sides of the political fence, have been able to find SOMETHING they agree on. They can agree, for the meantime, to disagree about x,y,z and agree on B instead. Then work to improve B.
But it means we have to stop screaming. Stop screaming at our politicians, stop screaming at one another. And listen. When we all lower our voices, we allow people to really hear our words… often times what we hear is not what we thought we heard at first. Perhaps we all agree on more than we ever imagined possible. I don’t think the screaming is actually what is changing the hearts and minds of people in this country on either of those issues. I think people are adjusting their beliefs on both of these subjects because of they are listening to one another. They are expanding their life experiences to include people who may not believe the same things they do.
And you know what? I truly believe if we can, for instance, work together to promote economic growth and we are SUCCESSFUL… it will make us more willing to actually listen compassionately to some of the other issues at hand. Perhaps one side will realize that gay people are no different than they are and should have equal rights. Perhaps another side will realize that the fight to end certain abortions is not an attempt to suppress reproductive rights, but to save lives of innocent children who can’t speak for themselves.
5) Calm the hell down.
Lastly, I think we all just need to chill out. Yes, there are a lot of things that are really pressing in America. We are not getting every thing right. Things need to change. But folks, look around. Even with our problems… I believe this is still the best place on earth to be a citizen. We are doing a lot of things RIGHT. And we have the potential to affect change, probably more so than any other nation in the world. If we will all just take a deep breath. The sky is not falling with most of our political issues… but we act as if it is. And the frenzy about everything under the sun causes us to lose focus.
I feel like we need tee-shirts: “Keep Calm, America is Still Pretty Great.”
Look, is this entire article just a little bit too simple? Perhaps. I am sure some will say that I just don’t get how things work in our government. That I just don’t understand the complexities of politics. That I am just suggesting everyone lay down their swords and sing kumbaya and such a proposition is ridiculous. Some will say that screaming, freaking out, inserting religion, name calling and being laser focused on agendas is the only way we can move things forward.
Perhaps you are right. I am just a mother, wife, business owner, and American who lives a pretty simple life… so what do I know. But if all of those things are true I guess I just have one question:
“Why are we still not getting anything done?”
Let’s discuss… perhaps we can find the answer.
Many Kind Regards,
Erin wants the political climate to be friendlier. Jeanette wants everyone to be friendlier, especially on Facebook!