We all have lifetimes of experiences to draw upon, and I’m no different. The experiences that have molded me are personal and poignant, and so are yours. Somehow, though, somewhere along the way, our experiences have put us on different philosophical paths. Mine is a path of trying to see the challenges that people battle with and helping them as much as I can. Maybe you see these challenges as a societal reckoning, as an opportunity to prove one’s worth, to be strong and not become dependent upon the state.
I’ve alienated people who were once close to me because of my unbending political stance, and I have family members with whom I’ll likely never share anything more than a cordial nod and “hey, how you doing?” at family gatherings. How did we get so far apart? When it comes down to it, don’t we all want the same things?
Take that enduring symbol of the promise of America, the Statue of Liberty—“Give us your tired, your poor …” That idea used to define us, and yet today, it feels like the message has become, “Get out, you’re not welcome.” We truly are divided. Part of me embraces the divide because I don’t want to indulge in what, to me, is poison. Your political stance feels so outlandish to me that the shark-infested moat that lies between us seems impassable, and I know you feel the same way. How is that?
What created the divide? Is it all about money, for the sole purpose of self-enrichment? At the Sunday barbeque, at first glance you didn’t see a representative of the left or the right; you saw your cousin, your uncle, your neighbor, your friend. Not anymore. Now it’s “red” vs. “blue,” and even though I’m firmly in the blue camp, I really want to understand the appeal of the red.
I think perhaps the best way to start is to personalize the conversations we have with each other. Its not us vs. them, the Mexicans and the Chinese hoards looking to exploit us, the greedy rich, and the deadbeat welfare moms. It’s you and me, the family that came here from Tijuana or Beijing looking to work hard and build a better life, the corporate CEO who’s trying to make life better for her employees and customers, and the young mom doing her best to feed her family.
I really believe that, at the core, we’re not so far apart, and that we can find a way to have a productive debate. I get it, you don’t like my reformist ideals, and I don’t like what I see as your outdated stereotypes, but if we can’t stop talking past each other, we’re doomed to perpetuate this extraordinary dysfunction that threatens to keep us at odds forever.
In less than five months, we’ll have an election, and I really want to engage in civil debate. I’m willing to try to see your point if view, even though my personal experiences will inform my discussion, and I know yours will, too.
I’ll admit it, I’m political. I like to read things that might help me understand the “why,” things that might help inform my opinions on the swirling mess that sometimes threatens to engulf us all. Some of my favorite authors are Douglas Blackmon, Naomi Klein, Matt Taibi, David Stuckler, Henry George, Michael Lewis, George Lakoff, Jonathan Tepper and, yes, Barack Obama.