We see things, not the way they are, we see things the way we are. – The Talmud
Have you ever switched the channel between Fox News, MSNBC and CNN? I have. Sometimes it seems as if they’re covering the news from three different countries!
In many ways this dichotomy typifies my fatigue with the level of political rancor in the United States.
I have been putting off writing about this issue, even though it is near and dear to my heart, but I cannot anymore because it increasingly seems like facts themselves are becoming subjective.
I know that politics are always going to be very impassioned, but this is absurd.
There are three things in particular that worry me about the current political climate.
1) Many Americans see the upcoming presidential elections as the harbinger of great or ghastly things to come. I find this a bit extreme. Romney and Obama may disagree about how we should prioritize the issues facing our nation and how to approach them, but at the very least we should believe that each ‘side’ has a vested interest in addressing them.
2) More and more Americans are choosing political loyalties over facts. People seem unwillingness to analyze issues beyond the talking points. I partially blame the decline in our civic education and history/social studies courses for contributing to this phenomenon. They’re important corner stones for critical thinking about political issues and holding our leaders accountable.
3) Politicians themselves are not acknowledging valid points made by someone from the opposing party. I understand that this occurs because people are so afraid of losing their seats, but why can’t we say ‘that is a good point’? What is the harm in acknowledging points of commonality?
I don’t need us to “all get along’ or simply ‘agree to disagree,’ but it would be nice if we listened to each other and were willing to scrutinize our own frame of reference(s).
It is why I value empathy so much. You’re not saying I agree with you, but I hear what you are saying and where you are coming from.
This sort of meta-cognition in our political discourse would be a fine starting point to help us move past positions and truly address society’s interests.
If you don’t know the different between a position and an interest, you should read: Getting to Yes or at least check out this summary. It should be required reading for politicians and citizens alike.
Our democracy is in desperate need of this sort of nuanced thinking.