If you spend even a brief moment talking about the election or browsing through social media, it won’t take you long to find that people are tired of the divisiveness in this US presidential election. We can see evidence of our exhaustion at the end of one of the debates when an audience member was applauded for asking the candidates to say something nice about each other. Americans, in general, are tired of the scathing insults from both political parties. However, the negativity is increasing rather than subsiding. There is still plenty of talk about the “idiots” on the other side.
So why aren’t the insults stopping? Why do we hear more about the flaws and questionable pasts of the opposing side rather than their own positive positions on issues? Why is so much effort put into proving the other side wrong than proving one side right?
I believe there are a couple of barriers to ending the toxic putdowns. First, instead of viewing people as created and loved by God, we start thinking that people with opposing views are lacking education, intelligence, or reasoning capability. It is easy to get caught up listening primarily to one side, and we assume that anyone showing any sign of intelligence with whom we interact must agree with us, even if they haven’t stated their views. We start to figure that the other side has not paid attention to certain obvious facts. Instead of learning about their experiences, we assume that they have been affected by laws in the same way that we have or that their needs are the same as our own. Laws that are meant to be beneficial to the nation may be good for some and bad for others, but we are limited in our ability to seeing the resulting effects on those immediately around us. Therefore, we are unaware of how others would be impacted by political actions.
Second, we don’t humble ourselves to recognize our own contributions to our nation’s divisiveness. It’s always the other side that’s hurling the insults and making false claims. We tell ourselves that it’s okay to disparage the other side because of how ridiculous we find their way of thinking. In reality, maybe we really feel that way about the opposing candidates and their supporters. They must be heartless or brainless to support the other side. We may ask ourselves, “Do people like that really exist?” We assume we know their story, or, if we’re honest, that it isn’t as important as our own. Therefore, our insults feel justified, and we act in the very way we say exhausts us.
It saddens me that I have heard people say that they don’t want to voice the candidate for whom they will vote. They know the judgement that awaits them if they admit their support, even if they aren’t overly excited about the candidate they have chosen. In some cases, friends who hold different views have already inadvertently hurt them through their scathing remarks in social media posts, and they don’t want to invite those comments in person, especially now that they know how that person really thinks of them.
Even though it may be hard to understand other perspectives, we all have valid reasons for the way we choose to vote. For as many people who agree with our position, there are just as many or more who disagree. At the end of the day, the election will not solve our nation’s problems. Only God can do that. Instead of assuming nothing good can come from someone who disagrees with us, perhaps we should start looking for the good in those people. If we truly believe they were created by God, we know that they too were created in His image which is a good start.