Next week, Americans will head to the polls to cast their votes in the midterms. Things have been pretty civil in Alabama, as most of the mud got slung during the primaries. Such is life in a deep red state.
But hearing some of the divisive rhetoric in our neighboring states of Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, where there are competitive races for senate and/or governor, has been pretty disheartening. Even outside of these races, the political rhetoric in general in the last week alone, regarding the president, the caravan, the pipe bomber and the horrible tragedy in Pittsburgh, has been heartbreaking and depressing in a number of ways.
And if you’re like me and maybe watch a little too much cable news and/or spend a little too much time on social media reading political columns on both “sides,” and especially the comments underneath, you probably think we are hopelessly divided as a country and wonder if we are ever going to make it out of this. Sometimes another civil war seems more likely.
I have certainly felt that way at times lately. But a few things have recently served to remind there is still reason to believe it’s not hopeless. Sometimes it’s easy to forget we don’t actually live in a world where people act like they do on Facebook or Twitter. (Thank God.) Can you imagine talking to someone and speaking to them in the same way some people do to one another on social media? Or jabbing a piece of paper with some meme right up in someone’s face to make a point?
No, we would never in a million years treat each other like that in person. If we did, there would be a lot of broken noses being treated in the ER every day. It’s easy to be an a-hole when you are hiding behind a keyboard fighting with some nameless, faceless stranger who lives 3,000 miles away. I doubt even the most vociferous, aggressive liberal or conservative would speak to someone in person the same way they do online. None of us is raised to be that way, no matter our politics.
But the more we stay in our own bubbles, those “other people” just become a blob of something we don’t agree with and we lump them all together and consider them a monolithic collection of bigots, racists, snowflakes, rapists, feminists, Democraps, RepubliKKKans, whatever, rather than a collection of individual human beings with very complex and nuanced opinions on issues. We’re not robots. Most people who voted for Trump don’t agree with every single thing he does any more than people who voted for Hillary would have with her.
Just think about your own office and coworkers or your friend groups or family members. Within those, you have people who have differing views on a variety of issues. For the most part, they aren’t absolutists. It’s not all black and white or red and blue. And you can probably have civil conversations with them and agree on more than you disagree. And you don’t hate their guts over the few things you disagree on. And these are the people that matter.
Just because we can connect with a billion people online and argue about politics doesn’t mean we should. Even if we don’t engage, but just read and internalize this seemingly never-ending network of toxicity, it gives us the impression we are way more divided than we actually are. And sadly, it certainly helps motivate the mentally unstable among us to do the things they did last week.
But thank God those people are the minority. And in the aftermath of the atrocious events of last week, we have seen many acts of kindness, support and love. And those acts far outnumber the ones of two deranged individuals.
And I have to believe that is the real America.
Even here locally, seeing so many people organize drives and donate supplies and money to our neighbors in the Panhandle who are suffering after Hurricane Michael reminds us, this is who we really are.
Watching thousands of people march in support and in memory of their friends and family members in the Breast Cancer Walk this past weekend reminds us, this is who we really are.
And there have been so many different local fundraisers the past couple of weeks, from Little Sisters of the Poor to Prichard Preparatory School to Animal Rescue Foundation to Distinguished Young Women. And there are many, many more coming up. Most of these are put on by volunteers who work tirelessly and make nothing. They are just passionate about their causes and their community. This is who we really are.
Driving into work this morning, I listened to a very respectful, meaningful and informative debate on local talk radio between Congressman Bradley Byrne and his opponent, Robert Kennedy, Jr. They weren’t screaming at each other or calling each other names, like the clips we see on TV between political opponents. And it reminded me, this is who we really are.
Some of my friends lost one of their dear friends unexpectedly this week and seeing them comfort each other as they grieve and try to make sense of a death that makes no sense, it reminds me, this is who we really are.
As I left the downtown post office this morning, I held the door for a gentleman as we were leaving. He looked me straight in the eye, thanked me and said with a smile, “I really hope you have a wonderful day.” He seemed like he really meant it and it made my morning. Even with the smallest acts of kindness, this is who we really are.
There is certainly a lot of anger and craziness out in the world, but there is still a lot of beauty and love, too. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of this.
Because this is who we really are.