It saddens me that in an age where we have more ways to connect with more people than ever before, people are choosing to isolate themselves. Given all the vitriol and hatred expressed at those who appear to have a different point of view, I’m not surprised.
Many issues these days, particularly in the mainstream media, are portrayed as us versus them, you’re either with us or against us. People are forced to choose one side or the other with little room for a nuanced position. Further, people who support Political Party A, Candidate X, and/or Issue N must also support these other positions for these reasons, even if that’s not the case.
Once people have chosen a side, they often share material that promote their particular agenda. Someone posts they disagree with your view? They’re one of “them,” someone who doesn’t support Issue N, and must obviously support Political Party B and Candidate Y. Worse, they make remarks denigrating and/or vilifying “them.”
As someone with Aspergers, I am prone to thinking of things in black and white terms. In reality, I know things are rarely that way. My unique life experiences have shaped my views on a wide range of topics. They rarely fall into one of the two extremes, and I’m sure my views are different from yours for different reasons. I accept that I don’t have all the answers. I accept that I may be wrong more often than not. I’m just trying to make sense of the mess the world has become.
I have yet to find someone I agree with 100% of the time. Therefore, I expect to disagree with everyone on something. If I challenge or question your views, it’s to try and understand why it is you hold that particular view and help you understand why I hold mine. Maybe I’ll learn something and I’ll change my views. Maybe you’ll learn something and change yours. Or, maybe, we’ll agree to disagree.
Sadly, with increasing frequency, discussions involving controversial topics devolve into denigrating a bogeyman, directing vitriol and hatred at “them,” i.e. those who do not support their issue or their candidate. You either support their issues, candidate, or party 100% without question or you’re one of “them” with little room for discussion or nuance.
Political candidates and political parties often serve as convenient bogeyman in these discussions. While you can certainly influence who gets elected through voting, you have limited ability to directly influence what these politicians do in office, particularly as a group and especially at the national level. Likewise, they have limited ability to influence you, at least day-to-day.
Particular laws, Executive Orders, or policies can impact you, of course. And sure, if you’re 100% against that law, Executive Order, or policy and maybe if you show up in person and protest in numbers (without damaging other people’s property), a few politicians might change their minds. The odds of that happening, however, are not very high.
Given that I have a limited amount of energy, I choose to focus on the things I can directly influence as a result of direct actions I take to promote the things that matter to me. This means focusing more on the people I interact with, be it in person or online, where I can have a direct impact.
I recognize to advance a specific goal, I may have to support a specific organization, a specific candidate, or even a specific political party, i.e. one of “them.” The support I provide is commensurate to the influence I have over that entity, which for national political parties and politicians, is practically zero. Even when I do provide support, it’s specific to the issues I care about and it’s not unconditional.
If you wonder how we got here, why there is less and less reasoned discourse in the world, if you wonder why there is less and less compassion and understanding in the world, if you wonder why there is more and more hatred and vitriol in the world, consider how your own actions have contributed to this reality. I’m by no means a saint in this regard, everyone can and must do better if we are to remain a civil society.
You may disagree with the things I choose to support and why. Likewise, I may disagree with the things you choose to support and why. Provided we can express our preferences and differences without vilifying and remain accountable for our actions, we can continue to be friends. If you feel or demonstrate otherwise, you have no place in my life.
Photo Credit: Eugenio Siri