This editorial appeared in the (Decatur) Herald & Review, a Lee Enterprises sister publication of The Southern.
We're told regularly about the differences that divide us.
There's a drumbeat of concern about our divisions. Class, gender, financially, racially, socially, societally, politically — all of these define us, put us in convenient drawers, give those who disagree a chance to refer to us as “them” or “you people.”
Our differences are becoming so sharply defined, they turn mother against son, father against daughter, friend against friend.
The battlefields on which we find ourselves are not created by the media. To be sure, this newpaper has in the aftermath of the election written stories about the voting divide we see locally, regionally and nationally. But those are a reflection of reality, not instigation. We also ran a story that broached the topic of “how to talk politics in a divisive age.”
How divisive? Look at even your friends on social media. Look at yourself. Does there seem to be far more anger in the air than there was even five years ago?
Of course there is. Many of us have decided every issue has a right and wrong position, and we can't possibly be friends with someone who's opposed to us on our pet issue.
How did we as a society get this far without tearing one another apart?
The arguments we have aren't significantly different from the ones we've been having on this continent for the last quarter-millenia. Some push for progress. Some push back, considering specific changes anything but progress.
The difference now is living in a Twitter world, where a handful of words broadcast to the world immediately are called “takes” rather than “ill-considered statements that maybe we ought to hold off on before sharing them.” We all have a tendency to stand hard behind things we've said, even if for no other reason than we see how society treats people who change their mind.
We're capable of changing our minds in the face of evidence. But too many of us too often harden quickly and refuse to look at any other points of view.
We enjoy winning, we enjoy telling people we're winning, and we enjoyed being told we're winning. We're less fond of admitting when we're wrong, especially at times when being wrong has the potential outcome of changing what we think of ourselves.
In a way, though, our attitudes are borne out in the way we're governed. We have a chance to vote for people to represent us, but we too often base our vote on the “D” or “R,” and efforts toward victory are based more on those letters than on common sense.
There's always a danger in letting the loudest define the borders of the discussion. That inevitably happens too often. The loudest arguments are often the least well-defined, the ones that don't allow for nuance.
It's all right to not have a dog in every fight. It's also all right to take a breath and imagine when we post to social media that we are actually talking to a real person, and imagine what that person's reaction might be.
One of the things we need to do better is remember we are more alike than we are different. Regardless of the outcome of elections, we all ultimately still need to live together.
If we can stop yelling at each other long enough to actually listen, perhaps a world of change can come to pass.