We need to talk.
I know you hate those words. They send a shiver down your spine. Nothing good ever follows that statement.
But we do. I wanted to talk for a while. I’ve attempted to blog several times about the craziness of these past few months. I sat down at the computer, poised to start a real conversation about the “Summer of Trump” vs. #FeeltheBern. Or the Hillary e-mails and recent Republican Benghazi blunders. Or Jeb.
I tried. I failed.
I blame you for this. When I heard Vice President Joe Biden say Republicans “aren’t our enemies” I suddenly realized why I suffered from “blogger’s block.” It’s not me. It’s you.
You probably want to know what’s hurting our relationship. It’s complicated. I love many of you. I treasure our relationships. But I realized many of you are not “Mr. or Mrs. Right” because, well, I’m tired of you always believing you are. Right, that is.
Good Housekeeping says someone thinking they’re always right is one of the 15 sneaky signs a marriage will end in divorce. With our divorce rate hovering around 50%, I’m guessing that’s a big reason. Another sneaky sign could be political views. In 2010, a study found 40% of us would be “upset” if our child married someone of the other political party, up from just 5% 50 years earlier. Apparently, many of you answer the question “Do you want to be happy, or do you want to be right?” with “Right and angry!”
Just look at the 2016 presidential race. The media perpetuates the myth of the rise of the “outsider” buoyed by an “anger at Washington, DC.” I believe the early leaders just stroke your ego and say things you want to hear. “Birther” Donald Trump screams about deporting illegal immigrants and calls everyone names. Dr. Ben Carson says the pyramids were Joseph’s grain silos, he wouldn’t back a Muslim for president and President Barack Obama is a “psychopath.” Carly Fiorina rails about Planned Parenthood, abortion, and Hillary Clinton. Even beloved Bernie Sanders’ wild ride continues because he blasts greed, corporations, and the rich. Most of you backing these candidates don’t do it because you agree with them. It’s because THEY agree with YOU. We now want candidates who reinforce our own beliefs instead of candidates we believe in.
The proof is in the papal pudding. How many of you are Catholic yet cringe when Pope Francis speaks? He says weapons manufacturers are hypocritical for calling themselves Christian. He blames “a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity” for man-made climate change and the destruction of the environment. He even stood up for godless heathens like me. Of course, some Catholics spoke out against their leader. Catholic GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Francis should “leave science to the scientists.” When the Pope addressed Congress last month, a Catholic congressman and three Catholic Supreme Court Justices failed to show up. While the justices never said why, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona said “when a Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one.” Like religion, politics now feels more like a faith. Instead of thinking you are right, you FEEL it. You KNOW it.
I know I’m right when I say government is the reflection of the governed. Take a look in the mirror when dysfunction in Washington, DC angers you. Or simply post something on Facebook. Whether it’s politics, sports, music, movies, where you eat, how you raise your kids, we no longer discuss and debate. We cuss and defriend. If you are not with us, you’re against us, right? Debate begins with anger and name-calling over where we disagree when we should start with where we agree. A recent Pew Research Center survey found liberals and conservatives view compromise as getting at least two thirds of what they want. We no longer WANT to learn and understand why others think differently. Now, we simply CAN’T understand it.
That leads me to an article I read recently, revealing a little-known story about three Freedom Riders murdered for registering black voters in Mississippi in 1964. While the movie Mississippi Burning focused on those murders, this story focused on the shocking confessions of two of the Klansmen. They told investigators they kidnapped the teens at gunpoint and marched them into the woods. They said the shooter then asked one of the teens, Michael Schwerner, if he was “that nigger lover.” Schwerner replied, uttering words the Klansmen said changed their lives.
“Sir, I know just how you feel.”
Let that sink in. Let me repeat it:
“Sir, I know just how you feel.”
Many of you can’t even say that today when we talk about guns, let alone with one pointed at you. This teen found the courage to follow Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s mantra that “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” Today, we lack the courage to even listen to what our “enemies” have to say. And many times, it’s not even our enemies but people we call friends. Schwerner knew the only way to save his life was to find common ground and understanding in the same way Dr. King’s nonviolent resistance changed the nation. As I said in this recent blog, change and compromise only happen when you GIVE something. Trying to stop someone from believing whatever they want only emboldens them to fight harder. That’s why King fought to change hearts and minds while others fought with dogs and water cannons. King believed the system created injustice, not the people. In waging a war for civil rights, he believed being civil was more important than being right.
He was right.