One of the biggest problems in our political landscape today is that we all seem to hate each other. The other side is out to get us and we have no choice but to fight against them with all our might. American politics has become a warzone where the bodies of the vanquished are piled higher than anyone could ever reach, and we watch this happening with morbid curiosity and a sense of dread. Those who actively participate in the process are almost invariably consumed by all or nothing ideologies that force them into behaving in ways we used to find completely unacceptable. This all stems from one thing: hate.
We talk about hate all the time, but when we do we’re normally thinking of certain groups of people who have established themselves as people who have an unreasoning hatred for a certain group of people. Virtually everyone in modern America is disgusted by these attitudes and maintains an active distance from such philosophies. There is little debate that these groups are wrong and every effort should be made to try and convince them to change their minds. Living a life of hatred is bad not only for the people you hate, but also yourself. You can never find peace that way.
Where we’ve gone off the rails politically is the current two party system of government that has evolved in our country. Much like the Civil War, both sides are ratcheting up the hatred over disagreements in basic points of view and all we seem to do is fight. Each side sees the other as an existential threat to over come at any cost, and falling to that threat would mean a permanent loss of the things they hold most dear. When your very survival is at stake, whether it be physical or otherwise, you tend to start hating your enemy because you can’t see anything other than what they’re trying to take from you.
I struggle with this myself. I work in a place where one of my employees is very committed to leftist ideology. While I try to stay more in the middle politically, I do tend to lean right on most issues and I really struggle to maintain neutrality because I strongly disagree with most of what the left stands for today. Regardless of how hard I try, I tend to view my coworker through a political lens because my fear of what his ideology wants to impose on me overrides my ability to see him simply as a human being with a differing opinion. He stops being a regular guy and becomes the symbol of something that scares me more than just about anything else in the world. It is very difficult to avoid hating him.
This is the biggest test for America today. We all have neighbors and coworkers who hold different points of view than we do, and because they are ideas that can have a huge impact on our every day lives it becomes almost impossible to see the person through the ideology. Learning to overcome this instinctive reaction to people who are different from us is critical to learning how to live peacefully on this ever shrinking planet. An attitude of mutual respect goes a long way in resolving our differences.
This does not mean we have to give up our own position just to obtain peace. Sometimes there is no other option than resorting to fighting to solve intractable issues. I would never submit myself to socialist or communist ideas just to avoid a fight, and we must do everything possible to prevent those philosophies from consuming our way of life. At the same time, however, we need to remember that our political enemies are people too, and many of them simply haven’t put in the time to truly understand what it is they are subscribing to. Many of them have been brainwashed from childhood to think the way they do, and if they put in any amount of honest thought into what they believe, they’d start to realize how dangerous the views they hold are.
If we can remember that people are people and not a faceless entity, it becomes much easier to become empathetic toward them rather than hating them. You can be forceful in your empathy, and I would never suggest laying down your argument, but maintaining a calm yet resolute stance is the best way to prevent hatred from creeping into our hearts. When we assume that the person is simply misguided, it becomes very hard to hate them and we are far more able to treat them with empathy and respect. Just because we disagree doesn’t mean we can’t be friends…at least until the point one of us tries forcing our way on the other.
So what do you think about political hatred? How often do you experience this in your personal life? What do you do when someone you disagree with starts speaking and all you can feel is anger at what they’re saying? Learning to control our hate and treating people as people is a critical part of building a free and open society. As much as we fear those who want to exert their control over us, we can’t allow that fear to cause us to alienate people who just don’t know any better. As much as it seems like the other side is evil, we have to remember that it is only a very vocal minority that is pushing the agenda. Most people just want to live their lives.
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