It’s a Mad Lib World

No matter who succeeds in November, if we go in with the narrative that “the other side” is [incredibly negative adjective], truly no one wins here.

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No matter who succeeds in November, if we go in with the narrative that “the other side” is [incredibly negative adjective], truly no one wins here.

As an American, who has always proudly flown my flag on the 4th of July, dressed in red, white, and blue, and sung The Star-Spangled Banner at the top of my lungs, I am deeply disturbed by the narrative today.

Regardless of which network or social media channel you tune in to, the dialogue you hear will be eerily familiar. The voices may be different…and the attacks may be skewed to the left or to the right, but the message is the same. The [other] side is [fill in the blank]…corrupt/ fraudulent/lying. Their leaders are [fill in the blank] incoherent/evil/stupid. Honestly, I feel like I’m living in a Mad Lib world. “In the latest segment of fake news, [Name] is [verb] about the [noun].”

Is it just me? Or does anyone else wonder when a mask became a symbol for a Democrat…or an American flag become a sign that you are a Republican? Why is supporting black lives synonymous with being a liberal…or believing the police are necessary a conservative position? When did long-used absentee ballots become a fraudulent way of voting, and why is it suddenly necessary to challenge their validity? When did we become so polarized that we can’t have rational conversations about any of these topics? How did we become defined by our political parties? And good grief…why are the attacks so personal?

Donald Trump was a popular Presidential candidate because he represented something other than “the status quo.” He came in on a platform of shaking things up. And that he has done in spades. But in his wake, we are left with a country that is ripping each other apart, literally and figuratively. I feel angst every day opening up various social platforms when I see people I dearly love throwing barbs one way or the other. And it worries me. Because no matter who succeeds in November, if we go in with the narrative that “the other side” is [incredibly negative adjective], truly no one wins here.

What is most obvious to me is that our “United States” are no longer united. Everyone is righteous in their beliefs, blame is cast in every direction and the conversations are outrageous, ugly and sometimes delusional. People are digging their heels in the sand on one side or another (and let’s be real, there is no such thing as an “Independent” today).

Let’s face it…the country that many of us say that we love is NOT pretty right now. Can we all at least agree that there has to be a better way than this divisiveness?

I think the hardest part for me is the mindset that “I am right—this is true” and therefore “You are wrong—that is fake.” I used to think of the U.S. as a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures—where diversity was celebrated and embraced. Where politics wasn’t a part of nearly every conversation…where we could hold different opinions and viewpoints and not be called [fill in the blank] stupid/in denial/wrong…where truth wasn’t defined by which channel you watched…where you didn’t assume someone was part of a specific party because a conspiracy theorist suggested that all people who are [verb] must be.

What has this country come to if we can’t appreciate each other in spite of our differences and not insult people because we have them?

Here’s what I believe. You may not agree – and that’s ok with me.

  • I believe that masks and social distancing are a fairly simple way for us to individually do our part in bringing our nation’s people back to health.
  • I believe that this country is great and that when we work together, we can accomplish anything.
  • I believe that black lives matter and that we have serious, systemic issues of racism that most of us have ignored for too long.
  • I believe police are important and that the actions of a few do not represent the beliefs of the many.
  • I believe that we should be proud to be Americans and honor the flag that our forefathers created.

But I’m not proud right now. I’m embarrassed by all the mud-slinging. Because if you believe what you read/hear these days, by saying any of the things above, you immediately put yourself out for attack. “I believe we should wear masks” does not mean that “I don’t care about the economy.” And “I believe that black lives matter” does not mean that “all lives don’t matter,” nor does it mean that “I believe in defunding the police.”

We need reform here. And when I say here, I mean we need it EVERYWHERE.

Yes, there needs to be police reform. Yes, we need to address issues of implicit bias that we all carry with us. Yes, we need to lift each other up and stop putting each other down. And yes, dear God, our nation’s leaders need to lead ALL the people…not just the ones that agree with them.

Anyone with me here??

We are living amidst the worst global health crisis we have ever experienced. Many of us are confined to our homes with little to no social interaction. On top of that, we are experiencing fires, hurricanes, plagues (!) and distance learning…again. Our lives are not normal right now. And on top of that, George Floyd’s death has (re-)surfaced systemic issues of racism in this country, that many are brushing off as “not there.” And all the while, we are confronted with political messaging that spews vitriol.

The sad reality is that our “truths” are influenced by our channels of input, and they are heavily skewed. If you believe that only those who vote for one party have a “clear understanding of reality” and everyone else has a “flawed perspective,” then you do not believe in the principles on which this country was formed. (And if there’s any doubt, we are supposed to be a democracy, not a dictatorship nor an authoritarian government.)

So back to the beginning…as a nation, we are plagued with deep, visceral wounds. And we are inflicting the pain on each other. The narrative is negative and getting worse, not better. Yet the only place we have the agency to create change is within ourselves. So how do we heal what ails us? In my experience, the only way to start is by looking at our own actions. When we lack awareness – and empathy – we lose the ability to be objective. If we really want to heal the nation, we have to look at ourSELVES and see where we are contributing or complicit. And if you don’t believe that you are, then it might be time to challenge some of those assumptions.

If our nation’s leaders would do the same, I think the country would be unified in combating these systemic, widespread issues we face today, and we’d be in a/an [adjective] [noun]. I’d like to fill in those blanks with “better place.”

I cannot imagine four more years of divisiveness…and that is exactly where we are headed regardless of who wins in November IF people aren’t willing to make a change the only place they can, within themselves. To get to a better place, we all need to pull out a mirror. Are you willing to put down your dukes and stop throwing barbs? Are you willing to look at how you can be part of a solution? Or would you prefer believing that all people who are part of the [political party] are [negative adjective]? Only one direction leads to unity.

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