Our similarities, our compassion for others and our shared hopes and dreams easily eclipse any divisions that may arise.
Say what you will about how our country is becoming more divided, how we are treating each other worse or how our disagreements seem to quickly devolve into insults or personal jabs against our fellow citizens. But if the past few months are any indication, I’d say that our ingrained nature of compassion is alive and well. We just need to figure out a way to keep it near the top of our consciousness on a daily basis.
Maybe I missed it, but when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and I watched the scenes of people risking their lives to help complete strangers, I did not see one instance of a potential rescuer asking a victim their political affiliation, where they stood on the death penalty, abortion or display of the Confederate flag, before offering help.
Likewise, I didn’t see any examples of people stranded on rooftops or in their vehicles turning down help from people because of their political affiliation or their stand on any particular issue.
When Hurricane Irma hit Florida, the result was the same. And while there has been some concern about our response to helping our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria – needlessly exasperated a bit by comments from none other than President Donald Trump – people overwhelmingly have shown more empathy and compassion, organizing local relief efforts to help residents of the devastated island.
We still know what is important. We care about each other. It is only when politics gets injected into the situation that we begin sniping at each other. Look at the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre. The gunshots had hardly stopped before people on the left were crying out about the need for more gun control and the people on their right were digging in their heels against any form of restriction. The screamers on both sides quickly sucked up all the air in the room, and lost was the mourning and coming together as a nation that we have typically seen following such tragic events.
A Pew Research Center poll out recently notes that among members of both major political parties, more people in each have a very negative opinion of the other party. Additionally, the survey found, people’s networks of friends tend to be dominated by others of like mind.
Couple this with the fact that just about every major issue has been assigned a Democratic or Republican designation, thereby ensuring just about everything we discuss comes with a political ring, and you can see why we always seem to be arguing with each other.
Republicans don’t want gun control. Democrats do. Argue. Democrats believe in climate change. Republicans don’t. Argue. Republicans want to kick all immigrants out of the country. Democrats want to let in anyone. Argue. Pick a topic. You can no doubt quickly identify both the Republican and Democratic Party position. Argue. Beyond the absurdity of cubbyholing every Democrat or every Republican into a predetermined position on an issue, the practice also does not do much to foster an environment where we can reasonably and rationally discuss important issues.
Note to Republicans: Democrats are not out to take away your freedoms and destroy the country.
Note to Democrats: Republicans are not out to take away your freedoms and destroy the country.
Here’s a silly thought: Why not take politics out of some of these discussions and just talk about the issues? Democrats might be surprised at some of the good ideas Republicans have. Republicans might be similarly surprised at some of the ideas coming from Democrats. Ideas should be examined on their face value, not on whether they were proposed by one political party or the other.
Sadly, these days we can’t even get a conversation started because people are immediately assigned to a political side that subscribes to preconceived notions and allows no room for alternative viewpoints.
We achieve the most when we work together, and as we see time and again when tragedy strikes – whether that is in the form of a hurricane on a different coast or a local family who loses everything in a house fire – we will always run to support our neighbors in their time of need.
We don’t ask what their political affiliation is. It doesn’t matter. We don’t ask their stand on same-sex marriage, whether they believe abortion should be outlawed or whether they think our gun laws are strong enough. Important issues, yes. But not so important that they usurp our basic human nature rooted in compassion, empathy and a desire to do the right thing.
We might face difficult situations with countries around the world, with an increase in terrorism or with dictators threatening us with nuclear war, but at the end of the day the greatest threat to us and to our country comes from within, from petty arguments and fights that serve only to tear us apart.
We’re better than this. Throughout our history there have always been those whose mission was to try and divide us. Invariably they failed. Our similarities, our compassion for others and our shared hopes and dreams easily eclipse any divisions that may arise. It is why we have thrived as a nation for more than 200 years, and why we will continue to do so for generations to come.
Jim Lee is editor for GateHouse Media Delaware. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.