It’s Valentine’s day – a day meant to honor love. So I’m writing a second (brief) post today in an attempt to bring some healing (better yet, some loving) to an ugly division that is affecting many of my clients and people I know: partisan division. It’s encapsulated by Donald Trump’s frequent evaluation of others as “horrible people,” but I do not want to suggest that only Trump is guilty of this demonizing. MOST people are, and particularly political candidates.
As strongly as you may disagree with someone about such important issues as income equality, the right to carry a firearm, women’s right to choose, gay marriage, etc., etc., the fact is that virtually all Americans (and the vast majority of people the world over) are bound by a common set of very deep-seated and powerful emotions and beliefs: love of family and of country, the importance of laws and justice, the right to live a self-determined life. We share a desire for prosperity and good health. We want to leave the world in better shape for the next generations than we found it. We are not at all horrible.
HOW we do those things is where we disagree. Not so much on what the goals are. So, on this Valentine’s Day, don’t focus on how horrible an opponent is. Look instead to the things you have in common. If you’re a left-wing Democrat, try to understand that Ben Carson is a genuinely good, caring, smart man trying to move a chaotic world in a direction that is based on proven ancient truths and traditions. If you’re a right-wing Republican make an effort to see that Bernie Sanders is a passionate and genuine believer in the fundamental equality of all people, and that we are all entitled to possess that which will enable us to enjoy the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness called for in our Declaration of Independence.
The media want to emphasize our differences – the more controversy the higher the viewership. But for our own peace of mind, focusing on what’s lovable about another person is a lot more soothing than seeking out and vilifying those areas where you hold opposite points of view.
P.S. – I recently read a book entitled “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt, subtitled “Why good people are divided by politics and religion.” It provides a lucid explanation for why we lose sight of our commonalities and instead focus on our differences, proving quite conclusively that people’s ability to think rationally is completely overwhelmed by their emotions. Add that to the fire being fueled by media that natrally focus on disagreement rather than concord, and you have the recipe for the bitterness infecting so many otherwise loving, and lovable, Americans.