Polarizing America – Election 2016
In just two days Americans will vote for the 45th president of the United States. But the people of our 50 states are anything but united. Workplaces are divided. Families are split. We are polarized.
Most Americans I know just can’t wait for this election to be over. But as we get closer, more of us fear the outcome. November 8th is less an end than a beginning. What must we do to make it a good one?
Trump v Clinton
It’s easy to blame the candidates: “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are polarizing America.” But they are not. Trump and Clinton are revealing the polarization among us. We divide ourselves. Maybe this is just what people do. It certainly is not new; it’s been there all my life.
Us v Them
I was raised in Houston, Texas by God-fearing, rightwing Christians. My parents loved me and wanted to protect me from a dangerous world. So a world of Christians and non-Christians was all I knew. Their Us-versus-Them world was my normal. But it never fit me.
I grew up and attended “the Evangelical Harvard” where that world was slightly wider, but there were still 200 different denominations represented there, each with its dividing doctrine. Finer details of Us-v-Them. Still I could not make it fit me.
Certainty v Curiosity
I became a professional writer. For 30 years I have listened to and told other people’s stories. With each I learned a new view of the world. I grew angry about the narrow one I inherited. I switched sides for a while, blaming my childhood tutors. But with time I saw that making them wrong made me just like them. So I gradually traded in certainty for curiosity.
I’ve been “leaving home” ever since, seeking what I don’t know and falling in love with the rich diversity of our enormous world. Over 13 years in Europe I grew up again in a wider world. Today I can’t count the nations my friends come from, and every one shows me a different world. This is the life that fits me.
Taking Side by Side
America is a polarized nation, grounded in this sacred idea of Us-versus-Them. But we are not alone. Every culture has its own version of Right, and the one you learned as a child gave you yours.
Being alive is a polarizing experience. Our physical world gives us nothing but opposites: day v night, up v down, male v female, East v West, yin v yang, mine v yours, right v wrong, good v evil. One flows into the other, and we do not control that flow.
It takes two sides to wage a war. But peace is not won on a battlefield. It is won in the mind, in the heart, and in the marketplace. The path to peace is the middle way, where each of us integrates the opposites within us. That takes education. It takes equanimity. And it takes compassion.
What’s Out There & What’s in Here
Unless we prefer to annihilate everyone not like us, which we like to call terrorism today, we have to take a hard look at how we perpetuate our polarity as a people.
We the people have elected 44 American presidents. Not only do they represent us; they reveal us. As we approach this 45th, let’s get our eyes off the candidates and onto ourselves.
There is no more Us-versus-Them. Now there is only Us. What are we creating?