When I hear The Star Spangled Banner, whether at a hockey game or on the 4th of July, a tear or two of pride and appreciation for the sacrifices of others appear in the corner of each eye. Today, as red, white, and blue pop up everywhere in preparation for the nation’s birthday party, my feelings are more complicated. Frankly, I am quite horrified by the divisiveness in which we seem to be swimming, maybe drowning.
Strength, wisdom, and greatness come from finding common ground and working with others to make things better.This is true for individuals, businesses, families, and governments. Making it happen for businesses and non-profits is basically what I do for a living. United we stand, divided we fall. Furthermore, we need all the brain power and cooperation we can get.
But it isn’t happening in the US right now. I’m not seeing any effort to find common ground. Nor to formulate some kind of shared vision for what we want this country to be. I’m not seeing an effort to work together either, though we will never, ever agree on how to make things better if we don’t first agree on what “better” looks like.
What I am seeing are people throwing rocks at each other, often triggered by mere snippets of information with all the context of sensationalist headlines. Leaping to conclusions about circumstances and people they know almost nothing about. Defending people who have totally screwed up. Arguing for positions with underlying complexities they don’t really understand. I am not taking sides here. Republicans and Democrats are guilty. My best friends are guilty. At times, I’ve been guilty. The trenches are full and that’s no place to find common ground!
Is common ground possible? I think so. When I talk with people from across the political spectrum, the vast majority really want the same things for their families, friends, and communities that I do and probably you do too. The underlying components of common ground are there. Sure there are differences. I don’t deny that. But basically, they all want peace, health, and happiness for their families, decent jobs that allow them to pay their own way, and a sense of security about the future. It’s not that complicated. It’s not easy, but it’s not complicated.
Tips for Avoiding Political Fireworks
As you celebrate this holiday in the United State of America, consider a new approach to political conversations:
- Stop repeating yourself.
- Try painting a future you can all get behind.
- Refuse to argue about alternatives such as “tax the rich” or “no Obamacare.” Talk instead about decision criteria. Under what conditions would you be willing to pay more in taxes? How would you know a good healthcare system when you saw one?
- Treat differences with respect and as an opportunity to learn.
- Stop labeling others. Those “morons” and “idiots” are more like you than you realize.
- Recognize that all media outlets use inflammatory headlines to attract readers.
- Distinguish between fact and opinion. If you take this seriously, you may discover you actually have very few facts at your disposal.
- Avoid the most inflammatory news sources and strive to collect information from multiple thoughtful, informed, and differing perspectives.
I hope these suggestions are helpful to you. However, my goal is greater than just to help you deal with divisiveness during this holiday. Healing our division will require every one of us to adopt a more positive, problem solving attitude and listen more carefully so we can seek common ground, collaborate on a better future, and learn to understand our differences.
Happy 4th of July! I wish you a wonderful holiday!