In my last post, I explained that if Americans are sincere about beginning a healing process, I believe civility starts from within. We can blame government all we want, and they're certainly NOT blameless!
But it's also necessary to look in the mirror and see where we, as individuals, have failed. If we look to Washington to wave some magic wand and make all this polarizing division go away, without recognizing that we, too have contributed to all the hate and anger, we're kidding ourselves. It's time for a more "grassroots" approach in which each of us remembers that we are, first and foremost, Americans in spite of our differences. And how do you do that? Acknowledging a person's right to their opinion is a start.
June Kellum. a journalist and married mother of two says much the same. "Each of us has a role to play in turning our country around - this isn't just a platitude." She adds that in his farewell address President Ronald Reagan told Americans: "All great change in America begins at the dinner table. So, tomorrow night in the kitchen I hope the talking begins. ..."
Indeed. Ask a friend, relative, whoever, WHY they think about a given topic the way they do - or WHY they voted for candidate A, B, or C. Then, hard as it is, LISTEN. Don't interrupt. Don't let anger get the better of you. LISTEN to what they have to say. You don't have to AGREE with what they have to say, but you do have to listen and acknowledge the other person's right to their opinion.
It is certainly all too easy to cut in, chastise, belittle, and scoff. But all that does is put the other person on the defensive. Arguing only begets more arguing. Hate and anger only leads to more hate and anger. And arguing usually involves "implying." We "assume" we know how the other person thinks, but that is very likely not the case.
I know a lot of very nice, kind, cordial, CARING professionals who do NOT think politically the way I do. But that doesn't make them "bad" and me "right," or me "wrong" and them "right." We look at the world through different lenses, and while it is downright hard to do that, it's something we all need to get better at. Instead of asking "who did you vote for?" and scoff it isn't the same ballot you cast, "ask WHY they voted a certain way?" What do they see that you don't? Conversely, what do YOU see that THEY don't? It has to work both ways!!
Doing so, while not easy, helps bring us to the restful place we so often dream of, but seldom attain. As Kellum notes, it's only after one has a calm heart and a clear mind that a person can truly THINK about an opposing view. I have several ideas how to do that, but you may have other ones. Fine, but here are mine:
* Don't accept all the news you read at face value. Read with a discerning eye. Does the author back up what he or she is saying with any facts? Does he/she quote more than one person? QUESTION what you read. One needn't be skeptical about everything, but think for yourself. Don't let the writer do all of the thinking for you.
* Learn more about American history, and watch historical documentaries. The History Channel recently had outstanding miniseries about both George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant. I have 15 credits of college history, and I learned a lot! You might be surprised how the stereotypes differ from the facts.
* Consider the spiritual. Kellum writes about imagining an angel looking down at us and seeing each of our hearts as a point of light. "Hearts with love, truth, humility, faith, mercy, and justice shine very brightly." When angels see this, they rejoice, she says. What would an angel think upon seeing yours? Would the angel, in fact, rejoice?
I'll close with some thoughts from two prominent people in history - the last one by a journalist.
"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people," wrote founding father John Adams. "It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
Communist dictator Joseph Stalin stated, "America is like a healthy body and its resistance is threefold: its patriotism, its morality, and its spiritual life. If we can undermine these three areas, America will collapse from within."
The journalist concludes: "It's time for us to be humble again, look inward, and follow the true wisdom of righteous spiritual beliefs. This is our only solution."