The other day, I decided to unsubcribe from the email notices of a handful of petition sites (such as CREDO Action). This was not exactly easy for me… I like to be a part of the progressive opposition; I like knowing about issues which may not reach me through my limited exposure to daily news. But what finally did it for me? The use of language.
We are such a polarized society. We’re so polarized that we don’t even expect our political parties to work together; all we have is this constant fissure, this endless civil war between the Left and the Right. I know it’s maddening. I know we’re so fiercely divided that we can’t hope to convince either side of embracing tolerance and actually taking the time to listen to what might very well be a concise and relevant point.
Anyway, that’s politics, right? We kind of expect that sort of sideshow behavior from our politicians (worse, we foster and support it by expecting it). But what about us? What about our daily interactions with each other? I mean, certainly we’re friends with people with whom we strongly disagree on various topics. We don’t discriminate against the individuals in our lives because of their views.
So why are we so quick to discriminate against an entire population if they tend to support a particular candidate? Let’s remember that most of us are pretty moderate. The soundbites we hear from various constituents (the ones primed to piss us off) are carefully selected; these are the outliers and not necessarily representative of the whole.
But we’re so quick to drama, so quick to outrage that we fail to see we’re playing right into “their” hands. Who’s “they”? I have no idea. The government? The media? The Illuminati? Whoever they are, outrage, my friends, is the true opiate of the masses. Get us going at each other’s throats and there’s no time to make a reasoned argument, no time for intelligent discussion, no time to dodge the hearty mudslinging of the opposition.
Okay, back to my original point (so easy to get lost in the Blogosphere Triangle…). When I got this petition request from CREDO, I opted out: Subject: Tell your senator: Say no to Republicans’ heartless tea-party budget. I agree that the budget needs work and in no way am I a supporter of the Tea Party. But, I will say that we will get nowhere using inflammatory language. Why? Because that’s all the opposition hears. And when that’s all they hear? That’s all they retaliate with.
I know, I know. Maybe it’s a pipe dream. Maybe (maybe??) there’s too much money fueling politics in Washington for there ever to be a civil, humanitarian discussion and the possibility of compromise. But we can do something about it. We can demand civility amongst our action groups; we can demand civility of our posts on Facebook. We can recognize that that same light, that same spark, which animates us also animates everyone else (no exceptions).
A closing thought. Deepak Chopra has this exercise where he advises one to make eye contact with every stranger he or she comes across, blessing them with a silent Namaste. Let me tell you, this is an illuminating experience because you cannot judge (or decide) whom you bless.
The real blessing? Opening your eyes and closing your mouth.