We are all so tired of the attack politics that plague our country. We’re tired of the partisanship. We’re tired of people simply being ugly to each other — being disrespectful and showing no empathy for the world outside of their own point of view. It’s getting old, really old.
Most of us have lost patience of our elected officials for not finding a way to reach across the aisle and work together to get stuff done that needs to be done. Most of us are done with attack politics. And unfortunately, I find more and more that increasingly we avoid even talking about politics with each other — just avoid it and pretend it is an issue that will go away if we stick our heads in the sand.
Minute by minute, it feels like the country drifts farther away from who we really are, what we really stand for and the values we hold dear.
I suspect if the country were in this condition 240 years ago, that we would not even have a country today — at least not one remotely resembling what is still the envy of most of the rest of the world. A friend of mine likes to say that even with all our current issues and attitudes, that if we totally opened up our borders half of the world would move here the next day — maybe not so much now.
It didn’t used to be this way.
One thing that scares me most is that in just a few years, we will have a generation of young adults who have never known a world different from the one they live in now.
Think about that for just a moment. They will never have experienced life where people and politicians respect each other, treat each other civilly, or where communication and diverse points of view were perceived as viable and non-threatening. We’ll have generations of young people who only know anger, partisanship, and a world where everything is black and white with no middle ground — a world that is only a zero-sum proposition — for every winner there must be a loser. That will be the filter through which they navigate the greater world around them — with no grounding, no frame of reference of a better way or a better world to anchor their thoughts or actions.
How does that bode for the future of this good country?
I know one thing to be true: we are better than this, each and every single one of us — so much better. We have more in common than we have differences. That is getting harder and harder to see, but it is still capital “T” true.
We cannot — must not — continue to live as though our commonality is less than our differences. The older I get, the more I understand that in all aspects of life there is always a point past which there can be no return. Dogs that have been beaten and only know cruelty usually are past rehabilitation. They will always expect the behavior, the only one they have known. Generations of disadvantaged people at some point will only produce further generations of people who will ultimately fail in all walks of life and who always will look to others instead of to themselves for better lives. The behavior becomes hard-wired.
Many of the root causes of our dis-functionality are going to be hard to change. Money has totally corrupted our electoral process. The internet has directly and indirectly taken away our sources of easily identified reliable information — information that can be trusted.
Those are going to be very hard obstacles to overcome. And there are more issues in the mix — connectivity, alienation, failing churches, loss of all privacy, failing institutions such as “marriage,” disenfranchisement of a large percentages of the country, and the perennial 300-pound elephant in the room — income inequality.
However, all is not lost — and it never is. Anyone who cares enough can become part of the solution by changing something they do control. And what do each and every one of us control? We control how we treat each other. We control if we respect each other’s opinions and ideas or not. We control if we label people who don’t agree with what we believe — if we stereotype them or not.
Labels and stereotyping are pure, capital “P” poison — the surest way to destroy who we are and everything we represent.
We do have control over a lot. The question is do we care enough? Change starts with tiny acts and then grows; or said metaphorically, borrowing from the ’60s: “a single spark can start a prairie fire” of change.
In the book “Glass Castle,” there is a metaphor used called the Reynolds Number which roughly describes the boundary between order and chaos. To me, today’s world is not so far removed from that Reynolds Number.
We’re near the edge I think, sliding toward a paradigm shift to the negative — possibly close to a point of no return. It feels like it’s time to act, or concede and continue to let the cards fall randomly where they will. I hope not. We’re better than this. I know we are.