Thomas Jefferson famously said “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” I do my best to abide by that philosophy. It’s become more and more difficult in today’s political climate.
I have friends that have vastly different political views than I have. I could very easily lash out at them online when I see them post something that I vehemently disagree with. I could call them out on spreading falsehoods. I could hide their posts so I don’t see them. I could even just disassociate myself from them. But, I don’t want to do that. I like dissent. I think Thomas Jefferson would agree that this country was basically founded on dissent.
If you know anything about Jefferson’s political life, you know that he was no saint when it comes to taking shots political opponents. He and John Adams pretty much wrote the book on dirty campaigns when they ran against each other for President in 1800. But, they ended up being very close friends again during the last years of their lives.
Our current environment doesn’t seem to lend itself to such civility. Even though all sides seem to agree on certain things that definitely happened, they can’t agree on how it impacted things, the fact that it’s still and issue, or who’s to blame for it. Yes, I’m being vague. But, does that even matter? There’s so many issues this could apply to.
Just last week, Senator John McCain died. A lot has been said about him. There’s been a lot of praise of him from his friends, colleagues in Congress, newscasters, and from me. I did not agree with much of Senator McCain’s politics, but I respected him. I believe he served his country with dignity and class during some tough times.
During the 2000 Presidential Election, he made it very clear that his opponent Barack Obama would be a good choice for President, but he felt he could do a better job. That’s why he was running against him. He made it clear that Obama was a good man, but the two had differences of policies and views. That’s what the entire election was about to him, and to be honest, that’s what it should always be. It doesn’t need to be name calling, tarnishing of reputations, or smear campaigns. It should be “I want to do things this way, my opponent wants to do things that way. Which do you prefer?”
I could go on a mini rant of my own and point fingers at whom and what I believe started us down this path. I don’t think it’s any one person, place, or thing. It’s a culmination of things. Where we are now and who we see acting out isn’t the cause, but the effect. I’m just hoping we can turn things around.
I want to be able to vote for a candidate because I think he or she is the best person for the job. I don’t want to vote for someone because I know that he or she is less awful than the opponent. I want a candidate to tell me specifically what they will do for me. I don’t want them to tell me how bad the opposition is. I want to be able to discuss the differences of opinion with someone and not immediately get angry.
I don’t know if we can get back to a civil society. Each side has their own set of facts. Even though that’s not at all possible. People believe what they believe, no matter if it’s true or not. I try to read things from all perspectives to gain insight so I have a better concept of what is true or not. I don’t just go on hearsay.
Building on that, and if I may (once again) quote a Founding Father, John Adams, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
But, this isn’t so much about facts as it is about discourse and conversation. Yes, facts play a part in that, especially now. I’ve had many political discussions with people I don’t agree with. Some of them are close friends. We’re still close friends. But, those are ones that don’t deal with the rhetoric and name calling that I see online all the time. I have theories as to why we got to that point, but that would be extend this entry to a very long one that I don’t have the patience to write, and you don’t have the patience to read. Maybe one day I’ll get into that history lesson.
What I’m trying to say here is that I think we need to make a concentrated effort to get past the anger and hostility. We need to stop believing things that simply are not true. We need to accept what things are wrong and not do the “yeah, well (insert name here) did that too.” We need to stop the blame game and see truths.
Unfortunately, I think we may have gone too far in the wrong direction already. I hope I’m wrong.