I’m scared to write anymore. I’m afraid to offend or rile someone who I love, but who holds a different view. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? We are all so scared.
There was an election this week in the United States of America, did you hear about that? Yeah, they are rioting and shooting in the streets over it. That’s never happened in my lifetime. A lot of them are young; there is a lot of activity on college campuses and in larger cities. Our minority populations are hearing and seeing some awful things; kids chanting in schools, spray painting graffiti, it’s pretty scary right now.
I’m sorry, could you repeat the question? Yes, you, in the back. Ah, what happened, .that’s an excellent question. I can only give my perspective, of course, but here is what I think happened.
For years and years the wealth gap, as it’s referred to, has gotten wider in America. The jobs that people once had for generations all went to other countries and suddenly the only way to get ahead seemed to be a college education and a career in ever-changing fields of technology, finance, or other ’new’ industries.
Even then, the short-term focus of these companies to create ever increasing stock wealth caused them to make decisions that were not in the best interest of their employees or the long-term health of the company. This tension resulted in increased health issues for the employment base, as well as much more volatility in the job markets. While our parent worked for the same company in the same city for their entire lives and retired with a nice going away party, we were now shifting jobs and moving our families ever 2-3 years to get ahead. And this was our white collar jobs.
Everybody seemed to forget the diversity inherent in any large population and the fact that not everyone wants a white collar job. Not everyone is suited for that environment. Not only that but as toxic as white collar environments have become, even the ones who are suited for it have a hard time surviving.
Because of this drive for higher stock prices, the working person’s reality was becoming so much more stressful. The corporations were succeeding in their goal of ever-increasing stock prices and wealth building. Volatile shifts in the steadily increasing stock market have characterized my entire adult life, as seen in the graph below.
So here we are with an adult population of working people who, even if labeled ‘successful,’ have achieved that success by perpetuating unsustainable short term goals to generate ever-increasing value for corporations whose own success has far exceeded the collective success of the people that work for them. Compare that first graph to the one below. First is how the stock market has changed; second is how our incomes have changed. (We are the blue and yellow and gray lines, not the red.)
Coupled with these dismal economic changes, we began experiencing significant cultural changes as well.
Our college students are leading some of the protests, but this is not the first time college campuses have seemingly gone mad to the dismay of the older generations. The 60’s, and 70’s saw a cultural revolution on our college campuses that has culminated in fairly recent history with changes in laws regarding race, sexual identity, and immigration.
Although the roots of these changes can be found in the 60’s, recently it has felt as if things were put on a fast track of change. A variety of issues began shifting: the number of people who claim to belong to a religious organization or belief group began trending down, while the number of people who support controversial issues such as same-sex marriages began trending up.
At the same time there was an explosion in the use of social media, up 800% in just 8 years. Suddenly people knew what other people were thinking about what had traditionally been taboo topics. And, phew, we all (almost all) think alike. Well….it seems that way.
Because social media circles are self-curated and therefore are comprised primarily of like-minded people, it felt, to everyone, like a small segment of the population was creating major changes. It felt like, “If everyone believes the same thing I do, why are things changing?” Or, “If everyone believes the same thing I do, why aren’t things changing more rapidly?”
Believing we held the majority view was wrong, it was based on a false dichotomy: most people believe what I believe, but the opposite is happening…who is manipulating things to make that happen? The reality is that our core view points on controversial issues have now reached about 50/50, no one is a majority anymore.
None the less, our self-curated circles meant that both sides of any argument began to feel like a small minority of people were fighting against whatever it was that you believed. Sure we all could see the percentages put forth in the media, but it was far more compelling and believable to view our social circles as credible, and our social circles were telling us that most people felt like we did.
We began to be primed to believe some pretty weird stuff. Conspiracy theories were everywhere.
From Scientific America on conspiracy theories:
“The idea that such beliefs are held only by a bunch of nerdy white guys living in their parents’ basements is a myth. Surveys by Uscinski and Parent show that believers in conspiracies “cut across gender, age, race, income, political affiliation, educational level, and occupational status.” People on both the political left and right, for example, believe in conspiracies roughly equally, although each finds different cabals. Liberals are more likely to suspect that media sources and political parties are pawns of rich capitalists and corporations, whereas conservatives tend to believe that academics and liberal elites control these same institutions. GMO conspiracy theories are embraced primarily by those on the left (who accuse, for example, Monsanto of conspiring to destroy small farmers), whereas climate change conspiracy theories are endorsed primarily by those on the right (who inculpate, for example, academic climate scientists for manipulating data to destroy the American economy).”
So here we have a very stressed population of people who, at best, have been shuffled around the country by corporations to achieve the American dream, and at worse never had the interest or desire to enter corporate America yet found there were no viable alternatives.
We all found ourselves living in the most prosperous time in our history, according to the stock market, yet living paycheck to paycheck with little job security and little savings. We had moved so much that we lacked viable support systems and our online social circles were our primary relationships – even with our family.
Isolated, under attack, stressed out, financially untenable. Ripe for anger.
And then we had an election. Both sides were well aware of all the statistics and facts listed above and far more information on where our tender spots were. Both sides of the oddly two-sided political spectrum began to capitalize on the fears and concerns. Both sides began to use rhetoric meant to rally support without thinking about how the other side would hear or respond to what they would say – or perhaps without caring.
And finally, we felt like maybe there was a candidate who could stop ‘the fringes’ from ruining our country.
For two years we heard about how the racists wanted to take us back to the 50’s and ban all things not white by building a great big beautiful wall.
For two years we heard about how the ‘libtards’ wanted to take every gun in America and build a great big beautiful arch under which anyone could marry anyone because ‘they’ all hate God.
For two years our fears were fed until suddenly we couldn’t imagine even being friends with one of ‘them.’ No matter that we had known about the differing ideas all along. No matter that we had managed to have reasonable discussions previously. Suddenly a difference in ideals couldn’t be discussed in a reasonable manner, and our only discourse was the same bombastic and fiery rhetoric we heard spouted from our potential leaders.
And then one side won. Well, one side was elected. I’m pretty certain it’s clear that no one is winning around here lately. As has become our custom we split down the middle and if anyone feels like a winner, it is only on paper. No one won this week.
The side who voted for the elected wants the other side to quit being babies about it. The side that lost wants to be heard. If we were a country of 100 people and 51 of them wanted the death penalty but 49 did not and because of a difficult to understand (albeit needed) process the 49 got there way, I’m pretty sure the 51 would be upset.
No matter which way this election went, there would be rioting. It’s easy to sit on the side of the elected and claim the moral high ground, but we all heard what people were saying on November 7th. The issue isn’t with who won or lost. The issue isn’t with who is rioting or who is not. The issue is that we no longer know how to find the middle ground. We no longer know how to have a reasonable dialogue.
Our country is dying, and it is not because of this election. It is not because of who we elected as President. Our country is dying from a lack of intelligent, reasonable, unifying leadership. That should no longer be expected from Washington. It shouldn’t have been with Democrats in control, and it shouldn’t be with Republicans in control.
I don’t like riots. I don’t want to see people rioting. It is, however, a sign that something must change. It is a violent cry for reasonable leadership. It would be happening no matter the result of the election. We all know it.
If you don’t understand what all the ‘crying’ is about, then it is your job to find a way to understand. It is not ‘their’ job to stop ‘crying.’ Please listen when I tell you, no matter how hard it is for you to understand, there are a lot of people who are very scared right now. Like, legit scared, for their safety and the safety of their kids. Maybe you think that is silly, but as any parent can tell you – telling someone they are wrong for feeling a certain way is not a good way to diffuse a situation. And while I hope the reports are isolated and few, I know people who have been verbally attacked this week. It is happening.
At best I will call all of this anger and vitriol ‘unintended fallout’. At worse, I will start to create some pretty legitimate cases for conspiracy theories myself. The fact is it doesn’t matter how we got here, here we are.
Most people are good. Most people simply and truly want to make America a great, safe, respected world leader whose people can earn a living and raise their families as they so choose. We all do want the same thing. We are all a little bit right and a little bit wrong in how we see the world.
My prayer is that some truths will overtake our hearts. Half of the people in this country disagree with how I think things would be better. Those same people, though, really do want what I want. Two reasonable people working together can always find an acceptable compromise. You are no more right than I am. You are no more wrong than I am. I am for you.
Let’s all step up to fill the leadership gap in this country. In our homes, we will do the work of understanding how the other side is more like us than different. We will teach our children that political affiliation has become a bit toxic in our country right now and there are better ways for us to tackle the hard issues. If we have spent the last few years, months, or weeks saying bad things about the other side in front of our kids, we will sit down, apologize, explain we were wrong to do so and try to help them see another perspective.
We will teach our children how to hold tightly to their beliefs while leaving room to gently hold someone else’s opposing belief.
In our communities and states, let’s start making those the most important elections. Let’s start raising up leaders in our towns and states who don’t just think like we do, but who have the ability to lead with integrity and wisdom. Let’s leverage social media to change the way things are done and how candidates are vetted so that, for the love of Jesus, we don’t have to live through another season of political attack ads.
I know you’re mad. I know you’re scared. It’s mostly made up, though. Most of what we think is happening isn’t actually happening. Most of what we fear will happen, probably won’t happen. Without a doubt, some bad things are happening, and where that is so, let’s go into our communities and be a light of positive change.
How do we start? It all begins over coffee with the other.
I am a progressive Christian who did not vote for Donald Trump, but I have plenty of people I love who did. I am a believer in the Bible, and I think Jesus is the absolute, hands down, best of the best. He, without a doubt, saved my life for all time. I also believe in evolution, and the big bang. I love all of my gay friends, black friends, bi-racial friends, and I enjoy going to church with them. I’m for reasonable immigration laws that provide protection while also allowing us to help the hurting in this world. I believe people should own guns, and I want some additional regulations to stem some of the violence. I don’t think guns are the problem, but I think they are a piece.
I’m probably ‘the other’ for a lot of you. I will sit with you, with a group of you, anyone, anytime. I won’t try to sway you or change you, but I can share my journey, my hope, and my utter love for you and your journey and your hope. And I would welcome the same.
That’s what I think happened, and that is what I think needs to happen.
Much love, friends.
Special Comment Policy – This post only (maybe): All comments degrading of defending a ‘side’ will be promptly deleted. Feel free to give suggestions on how we positively move forward!
Comment Policy: Comments are welcome! Negativity is not. I’ll moderate the comments, and if later down the road we find that some folks aren’t as nice as others, they will be deleted. There are lots of places to be mean on the internet; this isn’t one of them.