I’m not sure about you, but in the months leading up to the last presidential election, and in the time since, I have been continually floored at how rude, tactless and malicious the state of political discussion in America has become.
It was so bad during the election season that I chose to remain silent during the entire 48 months of campaigning. I say that only partly in jest; I noted with great distaste that pundits were already talking about the 2016 election with scarcely a break after 2012 concluded.
I remained silent not only because I had been too active during previous political seasons, at the expense of some Facebook friendships, but also because I wasn’t willing to stick my neck out in favor of any of the candidates. The ugly accusations and personal attacks I saw leveled from people on both sides of the political spectrum reminded me that no matter where I stood, I was going to face some heat for stating my views.
Whelmed at best was my general feeling about all the candidates. None were worth ruffling feathers by making heated posts. I chose instead to leave my political discussions to the face-to-face realm, and say not anything online. In the process, however, I discovered a few takeaways.
People and Relationships are More Important than Politics
It was very informative to see friends and family post articles and comments that clearly divulged their political leaning. It is always nice to know where people you care about stand. Especially for introverts such as myself, who are not naturally inclined to bring up politics in conversation. Posting on social media is a way to express feelings in a relatively safe, insulated fashion.
As I noted surprising revelations about people, I was tempted to allow it to color my opinions of them. I had to stop, however, and remind myself that most come by their political inclinations sincerely. Regardless of the route they take to get there, they believe that their views reflect what is best. As I do, if I’m honest. Regardless of if their opinions clash with mine, those that I care about are worthy of the same respect I had for them before.
Your Views Don’t Give You Superiority Over Others
No, really. They don’t.
This is hard to swallow because we are instinctively inclined to think we are right, and others are wrong. It’s true that some conclusions use logic, education, and history more firmly than others. Most differences people have politically can be traced back to differing worldviews and theories on “the way things ought to be.” Keeping that in mind, it is easier to fathom how some people can come up with such wildly different things they value.
Again, I have to believe that most people are sincere. So it seems to me that it is a more humane thing to have a political discussion with someone eye to eye rather than starting from a position of proverbially looking down your nose. Asking questions about what they believe and why helps bring an understanding that could never be gained by making assumptions and name-calling. Which brings me to my next point.
If Name Calling is Your Game, You’ve Lost Before You Start
Whenever I’m tempted to think that most people are nice, all I have to do is look at Twitter. Then I’m quickly reminded of the depravity of humanity. Pure malevolence dished out in 140 character doses. It isn’t limited to Twitter, unfortunately. It is everywhere.
In my estimation, it boils down to two things: mean-spiritedness (I’m pretty sure that is a word) and laziness. The former is self-explanatory. The laziness part plays in just as much, however. It is easy to say of someone, “That stupid moron thinks that (insert political opinion).” How much harder it is to reach out to that person to ask them how they came to that conclusion. Then to listen respectfully while they explain. That element of willingness to be civil and humane is woefully lacking.
We are all guilty of name calling. But it is never too late to identify bad patterns and correct course. I’m going to drop a “Golden Rule” bomb. It would serve humanity so well to go back to the days when “treat others the way you want to be treated” was preached as a virtue and practiced more consistently.
Conclusion and Challenge
Most of us are passionate about the values by which we think the world should operate. When we see those being violated or taunted, it is a test of character. Will we respond in kind, sinking to the lowest common denominator of behavior? Or will we see the person on the other end as a fellow human with a viewpoint that is worth just as much as ours? When we present our opinion, will we do so with an air of humility, and a preparedness to respectfully discuss it in a way that leaves the other person’s dignity intact? I will prayerfully commit to that, and I encourage you to join me!
I’d love to hear your questions or comments on this topic! If you think this post is worthwhile, feel free to share it.