Not my president!
Make American Great Again!
Trump supporters are all racists!
Liberals are all snowflakes who need safe spaces!
Check out this headline! It says Hillary has a body double and is actually DYING. Also, she should be arrested!
Donald Trump isn't human! He's actually just a troll standing on the shoulders of another troll! That's why his hands are so small! Plus he can't read!
Wait, is this a blog post or your facebook/twitter feed? Remember when social media was used to share pictures of food/kids/pets along with statuses that at worst induced shame since social media generally captured our best moments of parenting/cooking/vacations/gym attendance. I mean, at the very worst a status might include descriptions of a child's bowel movements (hopefully without photo evidence).
Now? Social media is a political minefield! Everyone has an opinion...no, wait, everyone has the right view of things. Everyone who disagrees is wrong...no, not just wrong...EVIL.
Fake news abounds, and not fake fake news (I wish this wasn't a thing, but it is), but real fake news. This stuff exists solely to anger, to divide, to tell you that every horrible thing you think about the opposition is true...no, wait, they're worse than you think! Don't believe us? Click this link for an unbelievable story that will enrage you! Don't forget to share and believe every unsubstantiated word we say! And don't believe the naysayers, they're partners in the evil! They're fake news! Shun the nonbelievers!
And in the midst of all this, where real discourse is lost, we are left with 2 sides, both pointing fingers claiming righteousness for themselves and accusing the other of outright evil. As they stand and try to shout one another down an unbelievable request is made. More than a request, a DEMAND, for unity.
In a world where we can't even decide what a fact is how could we possibly expect unity? When fake news, alternative facts, propaganda, and memes provide the foundation of a viewpoint, how can there possibly be unity?
And what do we mean by unity anyway? Does it mean that we all agree on everything? Does it mean that you need to change everything you believe in order to be unified with me? Or do I need to be the one who changes my beliefs?
Do I have to give up core values in order to find unity with you?
And what do we hope unity would provide? A lack of dissension?
Even though there are cries for unity, the truth is, we're divided. And as long as misinformation reigns we will stay divided. Hopelessly so.
Because division isn't created solely through a difference of opinion, it's created by how we talk to, talk about, and treat each other. It's created through hypocrisy and name calling. It's created through oppression and scapegoating. It's created when we fail to engage with those different than ourselves. We won't listen to people portrayed as our opposition and we don't empathize with people whose experience differs from our own.
We don't listen or empathize because we've allowed someone else to do the thinking and the judging for us. Hyper-partisan and fake news outlets have already told you what to believe and you're sold. The other side can't be trusted.
What we really want more than unity is ideological purity. We want to believe in a narrative that is absolutely true, unwavering, and on the right side of history that everyone else must fall behind lest they be labeled an enemy of good. We want to be told that we were actually right all along. That's the appeal of the echo chamber, it constantly echoes back to you, "you were right, everything you believe has been true this whole time!" The echo chamber tells you that there is no need to question anything you believe, no need to evolve, no need to know or empathize with the other side.
The echo chamber is a dangerous place to be. In the past echo chambers have given way to gas chambers.
If you're reading this, nodding your head and thinking, YES, this explains the "other side" perfectly...then I have bad news for you. I'm describing you.
We cannot simultaneously work together and call each other an enemy. As long as we paint an entire segment of population with a broad stroke and see them only as an opposition to overcome or force into our worldview then we are indeed hopelessly divided.
In the interest of full disclosure...
Discussion is nearly impossible these days without being accused of being completely biased. In all fairness, there are folks (as mentioned above) who have bought the narrative of their chosen side. This is true of conservatives and liberals. As much as fake news was a huge part of the election on the conservative side it is now playing a larger role in liberal discourse. No matter which side the fake news sells itself to the danger of it is the same. Misinformation takes us away from speaking about real issues and having fruitful discussion.
Fake news, memes, facebook posts/rants, hyper-partisan groups, and now even our President accuse reputable news organizations of being "fake news". Nothing can be trusted is the lie we're sold, except what comes from your side.
So while reputable news outlets (who certainly have bias, none of us can be completely unbiased) are being blasted as liberal, fake, and untrustworthy we have unethical, worthless, click seeking, and hyper-partisan outlets taking their place claiming to be the only owners of truth. And it makes these types of conversations difficult, because instead of starting a conversation with the understanding that we all have a starting bias and that we are all worth listening to and engaging with we are instead left with immediately dismissing people who are different from us since they are an enemy of the truth.
All that said, I won't hide behind any such statements. Nor will this site put forth the idea that we are part of a group who are the sole purveyors of truth.
I'm a moderate who doesn't have a home in either party. In my voting career I've voted 3rd party, purposely abstained from voting, voted Republican, and voted Democrat. My beliefs evolve, when I talk and write about politics and religion I do so knowing that some of the beliefs I hold at the time will change. I will own that. We all should.
I will openly tell you that I believe Donald Trump is a morally corrupt man. I don't trust him or his leadership. I don't believe that everyone who voted for him are morally corrupt or racist or any of that.
I have no interest in being hyper-partisan nor do I want to spend my time spinning negative thoughts into blog posts. With that in mind, I will spend my next 2 posts exploring: 1) how we can start to gain unity and maybe a little sanity in this divided political landscape and 2) whether there is a limitation for empathy and listening, what happens if we believe that a political party or movement or person has crossed over to a place where action must be taken (also, what action should be taken?).
What's Next For Not at the Dinner Table
Our website took a little break as I've taken a bit of a break. If you've read before you know that my family and I have been through a lot.
I am back to writing and some of the other writers will be returning soon. I'm also looking for new writers who would enjoy a creative outlet that fits within our purpose for existence.
I'd love to hear from you if you have an interest in becoming a regular contributor. Send me an email!