On Election Day, many Americans exercised their Constitutional right to choose those who will act on behalf of the entire population at the local, state, and federal levels. Now we move forward with the leaders we have chosen.
Both of us love America. Jim served our country in uniform and we both have devoted our adult lives to civil service. Regardless of who won the election, both of us believe it is time to put aside the strong emotions expressed by both those on the right and the left on the political spectrum and rationally discuss the issues before us.
One of the first steps would be to assess our news sources, particularly those we decide to share information from through social media. Are my sources of news objective, or do they lean to the left or right politically? To determine the objectivity of our news sources, we may check these websites, which assess the political objectivity of news sources: politifact.org, FactCheck.org, Snopes.com, and FactChecker (on the Washington Post website, washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/).
Knowing the bias (if any) of news sources is a first step in understanding how we may reach viewpoints on current issues. It’s a fair statement to ask a person, “What is your source for that information?” Their response may help us to understand that person’s viewpoint.
It is time to stop demonizing those who don’t agree with our view of the world. It’s time for us to work together to find common understandings of the challenges facing us individually and collectively. To begin, it is helpful to acknowledge the beliefs and values that we share as Americans as well as the culture of this nation — the history, language, places, music, songs, poetry, art, and architecture that have contributed to the experiences we share as Americans.
Among the values we share are those embedded in the U.S. Constitution — equality, justice, peace, and a system of defense. We believe that we are all created equal, that together we can defend this country through our armed forces, that we can and should provide protection in our homes through police and fire protection.
We believe in a system in which every citizen has the right to vote for representatives who will make decisions for us in local school districts, city and county government, state and national government.
We believe in the freedom to create our own means of support by creating our own business or service or by offering our labor in either the public or private sector.
We believe that all residents of this country have a right to a free education — although the limits are part of the national dialogue.
We also believe in providing for the well-being of residents, although the limits of health care and financial support are also part of the national dialogue.
We believe in freedom — of religion, speech, decision-making, the right to bear arms, the right to a speedy and fair trial, the right to be free of warrantless searches of our person or property, and the right to be secure in our homes.
We believe our freedoms should not limit the freedoms of others, nor compel others to take actions against their beliefs.
Perhaps the best place to start would be to end the vitriolic names thrown about as they serve no purpose other than to make the person uttering them feel a false sense of power over the target of the hatred. Much like in-person conversations, people attacked in such ways always feel pain, and often feel the need to reply in kind. This behavior never results in the exchange of ideas so critical to successfully working together to solve problems.
We could then begin to look at the problems we might agree on. That will require people who filled in different ovals on the ballots to talk with each other in a civil manner. They will also have to LISTEN to each other without shutting down emotionally.
Communicating openly, fairly and dispassionately will be challenging, but it can be done. First of all, it requires listening — really listening — and respecting the viewpoints of others.
We already have examples of living together in harmony. Look at any local sports field or court, and there will be stands filled with both Democrats and Republicans sitting side by side, cheering on their child or grandchild. At the local level, most of us rarely speak aggressively towards each other, much less resort to vile epithets. If we discover someone we share a common interest with (say our children’s volleyball game) has a different political position, we often simply avoid the subject.
Instead of avoiding conversations, we might be able to bridge the divides that exist in our society by realizing first the ideals that we share, by respecting the other person and their views, and by really listening. It will require us to make an effort that may not feel comfortable at first, but it will be worth that effort to do our part to bring our country together again.