June 26, 2017

As much as it looks like the second half of this sentence is a lie, I’m not being political in this essay. I’ll be talking about politics, not talking politically. There’s a difference ‒‒ mainly that I’m not taking a side here.

Also, for the record, I believe there are more than two sides, but for the sake of playing the odds and making a point, I’ll stick with the two major hemispheres of left and right.

Wherever you stand on the left/right continuum, you likely agree that we’re politically in a rather uneasy time. Frankly, I think it all sucks, this left/right posturing. People have been so keen to take a side that they’ve stopped looking at what could be achieved and accomplished by paying attention to the side they didn’t pick. So if we are in a period of fervent political turmoil, it’s because of mistakes made by both sides of that continuum.

In a grossly oversimplified nutshell, when the political left goes too far, it tends to get really elitist and condescending. The left tends to prize academics and achievements based in research, and while that’s great, trouble brews when lefties get sanctimonious about it.

I often think of a dynamic between a woman I know and her sister-in-law. The woman was education-centered, well-read, into the arts and culture, etc. The sister-in-law was into People magazine. The two constantly antagonized each other, one thinking the other was a chowderhead; one thinking the other was a boorish elitist.

Witnessing this firsthand many times, I can assure you, making people feel as if they’re uneducated, stupid, uncultured, or whatever, is not a way to foster cooperation, beneficence, and harmony. People (surprise) don’t like being talked down to.

Extrapolated to the Trump campaign and presidency, this dynamic is a main contributor to why Trump got through to so many people ‒‒ he talked up to them, not down to them. If he talked down at anyone, it was at the elitists.

Conversely, when the right goes askew, it can be a little aggressive. Righties are a little more inclined to see military intervention, police presence, and force in general as a viable solution to a problem. And while all those things certainly have their place, attachment to forceful conflict resolution can (surprise) lead to a resistance to want to work together.

I’m not arrogant enough to think I now anything, much less how to fix deep-rooted problems between sets of ideologically opposed factions, but I do at least want to take a shot at getting a few more hands shaking in conviviality, rather than in frustration or fear.

So if there is one lesson I hope the left has learned from its sound thrashing (and continued rebuking in these occasional off-time special elections that are seen as referenda of the Trump administration), it’s that sanctimony, snobbery, and elitism have a heavy price tag. Lefties are now seeing the results of that by way of Republican-steered legislation and conservative agendas. And even if you’re correct, lefties, in all your opinions, getting a peaceful, respectful country back is not about being right and showing off your intellect. It’s about recognizing that just because people might not have gone to an Ivy League school, their ideas and cultures and lifestyles are important to them.

And if there is a lesson that I hope righties learn, it’s that forcefulness is not always the best solution, because power dynamics shift. At some point, leadership in the United States will take a hard left turn again (political power is a pendulum, after all), and, to be cliché, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Gains made by force, if lost, are lost hard. Please keep that in mind.

In short: It’s time we all recognize we’ve all made mistakes, and it’s time to get over the problems we’ve been having. The good thing about everybody being at fault together is that everyone can fix it together. So please let’s start trying again.