Political Distancing

I struggle to understand the thinking of some people today. It used to be that each of us had a right to our own thoughts, and we could share those thoughts without fear of reprisal because we all understood that words don’t hurt people. The sharing of ideas is a critical part of a free society, even if they are bad ones. It is only by sifting through ideas in an objective and critical way that we come up with the most pure version of what we believe in.

The current viewpoint seems to be that we have to shield ourselves from “dangerous” ideas. Apparently the average person is so weak minded that if they even come within spitting distance of a “dangerous” idea, they will become hopelessly contaminated by it and be lost forever. It seems that the good old days of sitting down with someone and having a healthy debate about a controversial topic just isn’t something the modern American is equipped for anymore. At least, that is what many in our leadership appear to believe.

For the last year, we have been forced to live with an alternate version of reality as we deal with COVID-19. Social distancing is one of the many new buzz words that have emerged from this pandemic. Before last year, people would have looked at you funny if you said those words, justifiably confused at the idea that we have to maintain our distance from people. While I personally tend toward social distancing by default, the average person tends to want to be in close proximity to others. Social distancing is an unnatural concept for most people.

It is interesting, then, that political distancing has been alive and well for decades. We crave social interaction, but when it comes to those we disagree with, we feel a strong need to group ourselves into ideological strongholds, desperately holding on to our viewpoints in the vain hope that if we just ignore it then it will go away. Rather than sit down and work out our issues like adults, we choose to fall on the floor and thrash about like a toddler. Better to stubbornly cling to our viewpoint than risk finding out we’re actually wrong.

The current trend in media today is disturbing. There are calls by many in positions of power to start silencing people because of what they claim to believe in. Rarely do you hear anyone say that we should maybe go and talk to these people and find out who they are and what they are about. We are a society of labels, and if you have the wrong label, then you are cast out as a pariah. People clump into their homogenous groups and move further and further from each other in an attempt to avoid “contamination”.

There is another place that most of us attended in one form or another: high school. If you had anything to do with school at all, everything I have stated above should make perfect sense to you. In high school, popularity is everything. You find a group that makes you feel socially relevant. Few high school students are interested in facts or logic. The focus is on how they feel. The questions they ask are “what fun thing are we doing today?” or “who do we go pick on today?” or “what are people thinking about me?” Rarely is there ever a discussion between students about anything meaningful.

Politics today is a mirror of this mentality. When you look at what the people we put in charge are doing, it is a sad reflection of what we all went through in high school. One of the common tropes is that high school sucked for most of us and we were glad when it was over. It is curious, then, that we choose to continue that pattern into adulthood. We claim to be responsible adults, but rather than choosing sensible people who are well equipped to have intelligent debate, we elect fools who are more concerned with their own popularity than running our country in a way that reflects the values it was founded on.

The problem is mostly apathy on the part of the average American citizen. We have jobs and families and plans for our own futures, and most people rarely think about what the politicians are doing. They pass these huge packages of laws that rarely get the attention they need, even by the politicians voting on them, and most of the changes occur so slowly that we just don’t notice it. It’s like the frog in the boiling water. They turn the heat up so slowly that we don’t notice it until it’s too late.

I don’t feel like I’ve put anything in this post that is particularly controversial, yet when you really think about this topic, you should be horrified. The fact that the age of discussion seems to be over should cause you to run around in stark panic. If the days of reasonable discourse and logical thinking are over, it means we are all back in high school again, subject to the whims of the popular and in a position to be bullied by those who decide that their viewpoint is the only one that matters. It is a dangerous way to live.

The only way this can change is if we can convince the average person to pick their head up and start looking around. Whether they are Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Socialist, or anything in between, it is critically important that every person realize that we don’t want to live in a society where a small portion of the community runs unchecked over the rest of us.

In the end, these people only have the power that we give them, and it is up to us to force them to behave in the way that we as their employers dictate that they do. All it takes is raising our voices, and it doesn’t take too many to drown out these crazy people who have found ways of mooching off of our system of government for many years. There are so many more people who agree with your point of view than you know, regardless of what it is. The tactic of those in power is to get us to feel that we are alone and powerless, but the truth is that when we come together in good faith, there is far more the same about us than different. No amount of vitriol or partisanship or fear can stop Americans when we decide we are going to get something done. We just have to remember who we are and what we believe in.

We can absolutely come together to get done what we agree on, and rationally discuss the things we don’t. But until we purge the parasites from our system, we will continue to struggle just to survive. If you are reading this post and you feel alone, know that you are not. Regardless of which political party happens to be in power, there are so many people out there who are more like you than are different. Don’t allow the media to convince you that your neighbor is crazy because they think differently than you do. We are all Americans.

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