If the leaves fall and the oceans rise, where does the elephant on the moon find the light to the heavens?
Yeah, I’m just kidding. That didn’t make any sense to me, either.
But there isn’t a whole lot around modern society that does make sense to me these days. We continue to teeter on the precipice of a societal breakdown, largely under the guise of political and economic divisions — but perhaps equally so in regards to stark differences over race, guns, gender, faith, nationality and how we define patriotism. Oh, it’s the Republican-Democrat or Conservative-Liberal narrative that gets all the ink, and that’s largely because those are the team jerseys worn by our elected officials, but those are the visible symptoms, not the causes.
We divide into these different political camps because we have a system in place that allows us to elect like-minded people to vote for our best interests in a representative-form of government. Obviously, it would be financially and logistically impossible to maintain a system where more than 320 million Americans could vote on every issue that came before us, so we elect these people to do our bidding. They serve us, because we graciously selected them to do just that.
But that’s where things have gotten a little blurry.
At some point, the power flipped. Our representative system disintegrated into a two-party either/or system — a form of government basically powered by a checklist of where they decided somewhere that they stand on issues. Heaven forbid the two parties offer the same solution to any issue before them, or that a third or fourth or fifth idea may present itself. It’s as if a person from each side got together with each other over margaritas and had a fantasy draft over the issues that effect the day-to-day lives of the average person trying to get by in this wacky nation.
“So, you guys are going to be soft on some crime and hard on others, and we’re going to be the opposite on the two.”
“Why don’t we just make common-sense laws that mete out justice fairly, depending on the severity of the crime and the accused’s history?”
“You don’t understand how any of this works, do you?”
And it is hard to understand how any of this works — or, honestly, if any of this works. Our political leaders, be they on the state or federal levels of government, focus largely on wins over community betterment. Elections over governing. Sound bites over introspective leadership.
In order to promote their party’s stances on issues, they resort to the time-tested tradition of trashing the other party’s stance. It’s like a high school boy who has a crush on a young lady, but she is smitten with another. Does the first boy decide he’s going to pursue this lass by pointing out that he is a good student, dresses well and has big plans for a future that he very-much hopes includes her? Nope.
“Well, I hear John cheats on every girl he ever dates and can’t wait to get out of high school so he can steal from orphanages and write manifestos while living under a bridge. Oh, and he hates kittens. What kind of person hates kittens, you might ask? John. That’s who.”
That’s kind of how our government works today. It’s not enough to agree with one party’s stance over another’s. No, no, no. That would be far too civil. It’s maybe even more important to the powers-that-be that you hate the other party’s stance with such white-hot fury that you in turn hate the people who vote for the other party.
By stripping away any of the positives the other party is trying to promote, and by building up such vitriol for people who agree with the other party, the parties have carved out a system for themselves where compromise is not only no longer an option — it is now seeen as open treason.
It’s quite insane, really.
But it’s proven to be effective, at least judging by the severity and consistency in which both sides employ this tactic. Do I think that people who are against gun control want children to die in their classrooms? No. Do I think that people who want gun control are stupid enough to believe that a scary black gun climbs out of a safe and goes on a killing rampage all by itself? Also, no.
But that’s the narrative being pushed forth, and that’s the narrative that people believe. In reality, both sides want their families to be safe. Or at least feel safe. They just have different ideas on how to get there.
I can’t believe there are millions of people who want innocent babies separated from their parents just for the sport of it, nor do I believe there is a giant chunk of our nation who wants MS-13 members to just walk across the border and start killing citizens. But you hear it every single day.
I’m not suggesting that we all hold hands and dance around a campfire while we sing about our shared desire to buy the world a Coke. I like that we have differences. I like that we have disagreements. I love when someone starts a good old-fashioned filibuster in a last-ditch effort to prevent something from getting a vote. This is how we get better — through discourse and passion.
But we only get better when we actually listen to the other sides during a dispute. We only grow when we accept that there is much to learn. The Roman Empire might have fallen because of greed, socio-economic disparities, political strife and a general decline in morals and values from the elites, but it was largely built by incorporating lessons they learned from others and chasing innovation.
Let’s learn from the past. Let’s aim for the future.
By Darin J. McCann