Updated: Apr 12
I’m sick of the rage and the hijacking of our public dialogue by fringe elements on both the right and on the left.
Yes, I, too, experience the surge of energy that comes with outrage, but I’ll trade that exhilaration for the satisfaction of progress. While it's tempting and entertaining to tune into the circuses of the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, Louis Farrakans, and MAGA supporters, what I really want is to find enough Americans who can agree on enough issues so we can force our government to be effective.
When I follow what’s going on in Congress, it looks like our country is hopelessly divided. But, when I take a closer look, I think it's mostly a few politicians who are fueling this separation for their own benefit –- both to push their own agendas forward and to get the votes they need to stay in office. Once I stop thinking of the battles our elected leaders engage in as representatives of the American people, I see encouraging agreement between Democratic and Republican voters on some big issues –- and I think we need to keep our unison in the forefront.
According to the PEW Research Center, 82% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats believe that social media is a bad thing for democracy. What if we were all working together to figure out what to do about the problems social media is causing?
In reading The Cato Institute’s report, The Ideological Divide on Gun Regulation, I found that there is less of a divide than I imagined. Fully 72% of gun owners support a ban on assault weapons, and, even among Trump supporters, more than half endorse an assault weapon policy change. What if we built on this consensus to look in-depth into the role that Second Amendment rights play in 21st century America?
Looking at the current federal budget battle, I see that large swaths of Republicans and virtually all Democrats -- totaling 59% -- support increased taxation of large businesses and wealthy individuals. How do we keep changes in our tax system high on the list of strategies to reduce the national debt?
It's hard to remember, given that the talk rapidly turned into a divide that ranged from Defunding the Police to Blue-Lives-Matter, but the immediate response to George Floyd’s murder was consistent across party lines. Even then-President Trump tweeted that the murder was sad and tragic and that “Justice will be served!”
We should have allowed our national focus to stay on the horror of watching public servants who are sworn to protect us commit murder. In that way, we might have been able to analyze precedent and develop strategies to ensure that police do not abuse their power again. If we had done so, might we have made big advances to revamp police training, found ways to screen out law enforcement officers who are violence prone, and shifted the culture so that police colleagues are able to interrupt their peer’s brutal acts?
I’m ready to tune out the extremist chatter. I’m ready to stop focusing on the painful divides in our country and to turn the dialogue back to our common humanity. I know that this will require looking past the battle lines, asking lots of questions, really listening to the answers, and finding ways to make our voices heard by our elected leaders. Change has to start somewhere, and I’m ready to try.
Won’t you join me?