Common ground requires honest debate from all sides. We live in a time where “honesty” in anything is very hard to find, especially where our media and political structures are involved. It would be nice to have a public forum without bias that would allow the honest discussion of the various viewpoints. A “real debate” on the issues. By real debate I do not mean the debates that we have seen on our televisions for this recent campaign season. Anyone who has belonged to a debating club or studied debating and how it should occur would never use these TV debates as examples of “real debating”. An informed public is the best avenue toward relieving the divide amongst us. Education through unbiased and honest debate would be an avenue towards bridging that divide. What we have now are lies and prejudice of opinion that is encouraged by a media that fills its time and pages with overt dishonesty that goes unrecognized by an underinformed public. In these modern times it is no longer acceptable to be uninformed. We are living in an information age, let us make it work for us, not against us.
Politics in America is literally toxic right now. At the extremes there is physical violence, next to verbal abuse, and in the middle is the silence of avoidance. We’re tired, we’re spent, we’re done with this election and good riddance. We need a cooling off period, probably longer than the transition of power.
Meanwhile the divide remains and festers. Extreme political measures are being widely discussed such as secession or electoral college dissolution. Political protests are spreading and turning into riots. People on both sides are being violently physically attacked. We cannot long survive as a nation at this fever pitch.
Our leaders have voiced an unswerving refusal to find, or even look for, common ground. Those of us caught in the middle are trapped, informed only by examples of extremism meant to generate fear or revulsion towards each other. Decent people on both sides are manipulated to drive campaign success without regard for a real discussion of issues.
Since our leaders cannot lead, let alone govern, we must do what they are unwilling to do. We must be the leaders we need, each of us in our own way. We must bridge the divide.
And we can, if we are willing, sincerely dedicated, to actually listen, to hear each other out about our aspirations for our lives, our families and our communities, and how government can help or hurt us at each turn. I believe we will find much more in common than we ever could wish.
But we have to be willing and open to hear someone from a different place and different circumstances reveal their hopes and dreams and daily struggles. Campaigns cannot do this. Education or propaganda cannot do this. Public service announcements cannot do this. Only individuals speaking face-to-face can do this. People who are willing to be vulnerable, paired with people who are willing to forego judgement and recrimination. People who are willing to give each other a second look as more than just a stereotype, a character in a comedy skit, or as the “enemy”. People who are willing to see each other as people, as valued humans and fellow citizens who have, or can have, a valued role to fill in our country.
That means they have to meet as potential friends so they can listen first, and speak only after hearing with their heart. And then only speak with the utmost politeness and consideration, or else to avoid comment, swearing off judgement, accusation, and mockery. They must step past each other’s shortcomings, that we all must admit we have, in order to find our better natures. They must give each other the trust of safe dialogue. They must listen for, and commit to hearing, the best part.
We need these “listeners for the common ground” now, more than ever, before things get worse.
We need listeners for the common ground.
By Michael Stotts
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.