The Republican Party is caricatured as a heartless, racist group that does not care about children, the poor or the elderly. The perception is that it is the party of corporate greed and self interests. The Democrat Party is caricatured as a group of bleeding heart hippies who want to raise taxes and throw it all away on frivolous programs and giveaways for lazy bums who would rather sponge off society than get a job. They are seen as drifting idealists who want a socialist society.
None of this is true.
I have friends on both sides (on the extreme sides even). None of them are heartless; none of them want something for nothing; all of them care about people. They believe that children should get enough to eat, that our elderly population deserves respect and a decent standard of life. They are kind, generous people, willing to help their families, friends and in many situations, even strangers.
So why are we always disagreeing? How did we get here?
Like most difficult questions, there is no simple answer. Therefore there is also no simple solution to heal the divided society we have become. But I think some changes can help us get closer.
We need to communicate better
When you take the time to listen, we all want the same things. When we hear something we disagree with, we need to not take it personally. We will not all agree on everything and that is okay. Supporting one idea doesn’t necessarily mean opposition to another. We need multiple ideas/points of view. In most cases, there is no one solution to a problem. The biggest ills of society have many origins and need to be approached from multiple angles.
We also need to stand strong, together
We need to question those who seek to divide us, who every time we have a difference of opinion whisper,
“They are all the same.”
“They are against you.”
By looking at what we have in common and acknowledging that we have a common goal, we can get past our differences. We are truly more alike than we are different.
We need to establish who is in charge
Our political representatives are our employees. While the means to hire and fire them is more complicated than in the business world, we still have that power. If we were business owners, we would certainly fire employees who ignore our directions when someone outside the company offers them something they want.
Although we can’t eliminate the power of special interests (that’s the job of the lawmakers we are trying to keep from being influenced), we still have the power to dismiss our representatives. In the end, I honestly don’t care if we have a group full of Republicans or Democrats. We need representatives that listen to us, not special interests.
Some won’t believe that I mean this. Many people think they have me figured out. They have slapped a label on me based on something I have said or written. Among other things, I have been referred to as a “bleeding heart,” a “tree hugger,” a “libtard,” a “snowflake” and “one of those liberals.” These people blame me for decisions made by politicians they assume I have voted for. Taking out the ridiculousness that one can be held responsible for a single vote made by a politician one has voted for (out of hundreds or thousands), they really don’t know if I vote or who I have voted for.
I am registered to vote as an Independent. My beliefs and values straddle the traditional ones of both parties. I have split my ticket in almost every election, many times in half. I do my research on the candidates and try to determine which one more closely agrees with my position on the largest number of issues. I prioritize issues and sometimes am forced to vote for someone who vehemently disagrees with me on one issue, in the hope that the more important one is resolved. Being human, we will never find someone who agrees with us on every topic.
As an Independent, I live in a state where I have no voice in the primaries, so my voice is limited. So I am asking all of you. If you are registered Republican or Democrat, do some research and vote in the primaries. Give me two great candidates to choose from. I would love nothing more than a tough decision of who to vote for in November. In the meantime, let’s talk.