Never before have politics, both social and electoral, been as engaging, enraging, and divisive as they have been this year. Not in my lifetime.
It seems clear that social media and the easy click reading of the internet is to blame for it, too.
Parts of that are fantastic. Small grass movements can become massive and up-end the status quo in a way that is both terrifying and exhilarating. It’s truly engaging to know that little voices can potentially have as much impact as big voices.
It’s a tightrope walk, though. While there is much hopeful about knowing that you are not alone in feeling like the things that you particularly care about are particularly cared about by others, it is also isolating to know that those you care about have views that are harmful to you.
When people say “unfriend me if you think/will do xyz” it’s a stark contrast line in the sand of “support me and what I say that allows no compromises, compassion, or empathy.
Which is not to say that some views or actions are not so divisive themselves as to invite a lack of compromise.
I’m not going to repeat the many things that you shouldn’t compromise yourself on. All over social media and the internet those things can be found.
Much harder to find are calls to compromise, and intense compassion. A movement is not made by a line in the sand that divides sister from sister, brother from brother, child from parent, friend from friend. Those things are more likely to be in line with self-identity.
I won’t go into self-identity and the many strong things social media and the internet have done for that, either. You can find them. Everywhere.
What a movement is made up of are thoughtful and compassionate discussions. Find the common ground and work from there. If we are to bridge the gaps that are wedging between so many of us in our lives, these discussions must happen.
The divisive memes and rants are an easy device to turn to when someone uses one that is rejecting the things you hold true and dear. Snark is an easy answer when you feel pain or fear.
Dividing yourself when someone takes an action or stand that divides you from them is easy. Much harder is to hear their thoughts and ask them why. Show your pain. Attempt to understand why someone has a different point of view, and allow yourself to consider that their point of view has merit.
Don’t abandon principles, but respect people and their experiences even if they are completely foreign to you. You don’t have to agree with them, but you don’t have to reject them, and the slow growth of healthy compromise can arise from nothing else.
Compromise is our bridge forward, and we must find it. We must make bridges between us all or the gaps will engulf us all instead.