So, Joe Biden is now the projected winner of the 2020 presidential election. There are a variety of challenges to the results going on, recounts, protests, and so forth, but a whole lot of people seem ready to move on. And that’s fine. I’m more than ready, myself.
Just for the record, I’m politically unaffiliated, and I see real problems with both major parties. I have issues with the whole party system (and I’ll be talking about that inhuman condition a lot more in the future), so don’t send me hate mail for siding with Biden. I hate taking sides, for a whole bunch of reasons.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, here’s the deal with me. I’m ready to move on from politics as it’s been played for as long as I can remember. I’m even more ready to move on from it, the way it’s been played for the past 40 years or so, with each side (Democrats and Republicans) becoming ever more entrenched in their ideology.
I’m ready to move on from each side carving up the cultural landscape into their own set of “talking points” that they own and dominate.
I’m ready to move on from the name-calling and the demonization (literally) of “the other side”, falling back on all sorts of elaborate explanations about how “they” are evil incarnate and must be vanquished, no matter what the cost.
I see that kind of behavior on both sides of the political playing field. Both sides demonize the other. Both sides use inflammatory language that brings the souls of the others into question. Not only does that harm us on the side we’re on, by making other people seem less human, less deserving of respect and compassion, but it also alienates the “opponents”, because they can see very clearly how intensely they’re being disrespected.
Don’t get me wrong. In no way am I saying it’s okay to kill, maim, rape, troll, or otherwise threaten people you see as your enemy. The policies put in place by the US government for the past 4 years have gone directly against what I personally believe and hold to be true.
But all the while, I’ve seen opponents of that approach behave in ways I could never sign off on. No way, no how. You can’t claim the high moral ground while doing things the way the Democrats — and other political parties — have been doing them. It just doesn’t square with my own experience and belief system.
It also doesn’t square with how we’re built. Within our bodies, we’re made up of billions upon billions of separations between nerves. That’s especially true in our brains, where we’ve got more nerves than most of us can even imagine. Each of those nerves has a bunch of connections that reach out to other nerves to pass information. Our neurotransmitters jump those gaps in a wild “storm” of neurological activity, as chemicals get passed from one nerve ending to another.
It’s how we function. We can’t function without those storms. And the minute that connection stops, we start to die.
It’s not the separation that kills us. It’s the failure to cross the gaps that does.
Which is a big reason why I dropped my political affiliation a while back and refuse to sign on to a Democratic or Republican or Libertarian or Green or Democratic Socialist or Constitution or Natural Law party. Because the party system as it is now is killing us. It’s killing us by keeping us separate from each other. It’s killing us by “owning” certain “talking points” and consolidating power around a select group of people who all agree with each other. It’s killing us by making it impossible to have a civil conversation between people with different perspectives, and making the other side out to be crazy or stupid or hateful or naive.
Party leadership has been doing it for decades, maybe even centuries. The guy in the White House has been doing it — ninja level ridicule with all that name-calling — for the last four years. And as one side has gotten less and less humane, the other side has decided to meet them, match them, and out-do them, each side using terms that the other doesn’t completely understand. But that’s okay, because the “right” people understand, and all that matters is strengthening the bonds of the tribe.
Using separation as a political tool is exactly the opposite of what we need, as a country and as individual human beings. It not only dehumanizes others, it dehumanizes us, as well. Anytime we stop the flow of interaction between separate sides, we make ourselves more brittle, more easily insulted, more easily broken, more easily manipulated, more easily fooled. And the less capable of connection with different others we become, the more it matters how much we’re connected with “our own kind”.
The gap widens. The divide expands. That’s not the problem. The real problem is that we don’t know how to get across that gap and actually communicate outside our own little circle. And that makes us — literally — less human.
So, if you’re feeling all morally superior because your political viewpoint prevails under one circumstance or another… or maybe because it hasn’t come out on top… and you can’t see the perspective of the other side, nor do you want to… you can stop feeling morally superior now. Because what you’re doing is being non-human. You’re going directly against the way you’re built — the way we all are built.
Of course we’re going to disagree about a whole lot of stuff. Of course we’re going to have extremely different outlooks. Of course we’re going to oppose a whole lot of stuff we don’t agree with. That’s normal. It’s to be expected. But when we stop making an effort to understand, and we stop making an effort to reach out to others and interact with them, just because they don’t agree with us… well, then we do ourselves a disservice. And we insult the very essence of our humanity.
And that needs to stop.
The good news is, it can. We can. We can stop this willful, artificial separation and actually start interacting with each other. As people. As human beings. We can get past our personal political opinions and accept the fact that others have different experiences, and they’re entitled to their viewpoint — just as we are. We can start dealing with each other with respect and consideration. And our leaders can start behaving that way, too. I’m old enough to remember a time when the “left” and “right” were diametrically opposed, and yet we all managed to live together and actually enjoy each other’s company. I grew up having intensely heated arguments with people who didn’t think like me, at all. And yet, we ended each conversation agreeing to disagree, and we remained friends.
Imagine that… people with different opinions remaining friends, rather than tearing each other a new one… It can happen. It used to. And we can get back to that, absolutely.
But we have to want to. We have to be willing to do the work that goes along with it.
And we have to be willing to sacrifice a bit for it — our self-righteousness, our gloating, our mental-junk-food-elation at the suffering of others.
Personally, I’m not sure there are many people who have the nerve or the appetite to do this sort of thing. Everybody’s too drunk on their high-horse, and who wants to lose that buzz? But I can’t see any other way to move forward. And I’m going to do what I know to be true about the way we’re actually built to survive… even thrive. I’m going to keep roaming beyond my own little perspective (not sure I actually have one of those, actually) and keep paying attention to what’s going on out there — past, present, future… here, there, and everywhere else. You can do what you like, but this is the only way I can see us getting past this dumpster fire we’re in.
Seems worth it to me.
You may agree. If not, that’s fine, too. Do what you please. Just don’t harm others in the process.