America is becoming more fractured by the day — black people being killed by law enforcement, angry gunmen retaliating against the police. Conservatives and liberals lobbing bombs at each other. Religions engaged in ideological war over who owns “the true” God.
Our rhetoric has descended into bigotry, assuming that any and everyone who belongs to the opposing group thinks alike. I often hear these labels, “those Liberals” or “those Conservatives,” “those Muslims” or “those Christians,” as if they are all the same.
This is a form of racism, lumping everyone into the same pot, robbing individuals of their own uniqueness.
Every group is made up of decent people, people with ill intent, smart people and robots, accepting anything that is programmed into them by someone else. There is always a diversity of thought and action within any group.
Often, when individuals from opposing groups get together and engage in civil debate over a cup of coffee, they find they have much in common in addition to their disagreements.
So how do we find this common ground? Listen. Listening breaks down the entrenched walls of decisiveness.
I’m am guilty of this sin. I’m a very verbal person who oftentimes is thinking of what I’m going to say while the other person is sharing their point of view. This is a bad habit that often robs me of the opportunity to learn something new.
Try to understand a different perspective. When we ask questions, we begin to have a better understanding of where another person is coming from.
Everyone has a story. Take time to hear their story. You might find the road that led them to their particular conclusion.
Over the years, I have had many conversations with a Muslim friend of mine. Some of these chats reveal the very different world views we hold. But, when we reduce those world views to their fundamental outcomes, we realize we both love our families and are concerned about the world they will inherit. This is our common ground.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not so naive as to believe you can always find common ground, and I know there are plenty of people who are angry about where our country is going — on both sides of the aisle. I’m one of those people.
But, I think the root of our anger is that, at some point, our government stopped doing the business of the people. We have been sold off to the highest bidder and are left to pick up the crumbs that have fallen off the table.
I feel the disappointment of being betrayed by those who lead us and I, along with my conservative fellow citizens, want them to take some responsibility. But we gain no ground by cannibalizing each other.
I believe there are those in power who benefit from the divisive climate we live in. When we fight amongst ourselves and become obsessed with our crazy Democratic or Republican neighbor down the street or the left-wing pundit on TV, we divert our gaze away from those in power, who live in the shadows, leaving them to pull the strings to their own advantage.
This slight of hand serves them well. Keep focused on “the great and powerful Oz” portrayed on the big screen, and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
The only way to take our country back from these powerful money interests is to find our common ground and stand together in imperfect unity.
There will always be differences. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. But, we the people, can’t lose our common goal to restore our republic.
In the words of the great Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I encourage us all to talk with each other, iron out our disagreements and create our own “Citizens United.”