It’s depressing how divided my country has become. I look around and see more than just two different political views; I see two different realities. I’m not just living in a different country than those I disagree with; I’m in a different universe.
Has it ever been this bad before? Was it this bad during the Vietnam War? The Cold War? The Civil War? The Revolutionary War? I don’t like the fact that when I think of periods with intense division they are all periods of ‘war.’
A few months ago I did something I thought was really cool. I had to fill out a form to take a hearing test and it asked for my nationality. After thinking for a few minutes I put down what I felt was most appropriate: American. Sure, my ancestors came from western European countries, but that’s been over a hundred years ago and I never met any of them. It doesn’t make sense to say I’m ‘Irish’ or ‘English’ or ‘German.’
For better or worse I’m an American.
But now is a strange time to be an American. I don’t feel that I need to add a pronoun to say I’m European American. It’s only somewhat important at the moment whether someone is African American or Asian American.
What people care about is that I’m a Liberal American. An American Democrat. A Progressive American.
I have a part-time job writing for a local newsweekly. I try to focus on local politics in the area. I usually do a preview of county elections and I’ve covered the Mayor’s State of the City. It’s important stuff that doesn’t always end up in our local daily paper.
Something I notice about local politics as opposed to state or national level politics is that the D and R behind people’s names don’t matter quite as much. I can safely assume someone’s views and priorities by that letter, but it doesn’t define them to the point where I feel they’re an enemy. I know what talking points I’ll probably get during an interview, but they don’t seem like boogeymen in a lightly colored mansion hundreds of miles away.
Maybe that’s because the mayor is more likely to be my neighbor. A city councilman could be my waiter. If I want to say something to a county commissioner I can pick up the phone and dial the number. These aren’t people that are far away who I can easily dehumanize.
Maybe at the local level it’s just easier to remember that in spite of our differences we all want to make our community a great place to live.
It can be frustrating to browse Facebook anymore. A lot of the time I want to get into arguments. I want to know why people hold their views. I want to know where they get their information.
But for the most part, people don’t want to share that sort of thing.
So my New Year’s Resolution is that the next time I see something I find completely ignorant I want to write a bitchy comment to on social media I’ll ask “how does this help anything?”
Seriously, how does bickering about whether Democrats want to raise your taxes or if Republicans want to allow corporations to run the country help anything? You’d think having cellphones that connect us with every newspaper on the planet would make us more informed, but it’s still just the same thirty-second sound bytes I’ve heard my whole life. Only now they’re memes.
A good example is the recent tax cut. I don’t understand how anyone making less than $75,000/year can be happy about it. I’ll see my taxes raised within four years at my income level. Everyone under that threshold will see an increase at some point in the next few years, but I have coworkers who make the same wages as I do who are tickled pink by this.
What’s even crazier is that sexual assault and foreign interference in an election have also become partisan issues.
And you know what? They’ve already won. We’re arguing about whether Obama or Trump is better while they pick out pockets.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s work together. Let’s bridge that gap.
Like anything else in this world, I may fail. But goddammit I’m going to try.