Resisting Political Divisiveness and Your Better Angels

No one has ever won a political argument. I’m not sure Jefferson, Adams, or Hamilton, Madison, and Jay ever did. Thomas Paine may have, but he was quite the exceptional pamphleteer.

Not many have ever made a political argument so sharp that it caused someone else to change their mind, let alone argue so well on a social media site that it ended in a conversion. No meme is capable of persuading someone to change their politics, no matter how clever or how vicious.

Fortunately, you don’t get paid by the number of people whose minds you change when it comes to their politics. If you were paid for changing political opinions, you would very quickly decide to look for a new line of work.

Hanging Separately

Here in the United States, we are just finishing up one of the most vicious and divisive campaigns in recent history. On Tuesday, Americans will decide who they believe should lead the country for the next four years.

Right now, however, people who have been friends for years are arguing with each other as if they were long-time enemies. So are family members who have different political opinions. They are unfriending each other, and they are spending hours insulting one another and arguing on social media. They’re allowing themselves to be divided by politics.

All of this divisiveness is being fed by a two-party system that relies heavily on the strategy of dividing people into voting blocks by finding wedge issues with which to separate us. Each party believes the best way to motivate voters is to use the ultimate wedge issue, namely the horrible character of the other candidate, to convince people to vote against that candidate.

Instead of buying into the fear that motivates people to vote by demonizing a candidate and their supporters as a way to win power, understand that you are intentionally being divided from other people. You have more in common with the people from who you are being divided than you have differences, a fact that won’t change after the election.

Remain Undivided

Politics isn’t going away, but this divisiveness is something worth resisting.

When the election is over, we’ll still need each other. We’ll still have to work together to make things better where we can. We’ll still take care of our friends and our families, and we’ll still share more in common than the sum total of our political differences.

“What about the issues?” you say. Democracy is how we work out these issues, these conflicts, the things upon which we disagree. We elect people, and we sort things out the best we can, sometimes going too far in one direction only to turn around and go too far in the other, like a ship course correcting on choppy seas.

Don’t allow anyone to drive a wedge between you and other people, especially your friends and family. That isn’t how we build strong communities, and it isn’t the kind of example we need to be for the future generations who will face even greater challenges and have the chance to explore even greater possibilities. They’ll need each other even more than we do now.

Our politicians may be more coarse than ever before, but we don’t have to be. Instead, “be touched by the better nature of our angels.”

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