Normally I try to make my pieces polished and perfect, but this one doesn’t have that potential, for the topic at hand is the smashed and shattered state of the American ideological divide. The point is, that you cannot articulate a fix for something that is likely beyond any hope of repair. I have been contemplating how to address those on both sides of this split, and have failed to solve how to approach it, so take this failure of our collective imaginations into account while reading.
The more interest I took in politics, the more ideological I became, to the point that I had blood coming out of my eyes and blood coming out of my “wherever” over the topic. And unlike some more reserved or disciplined individuals, this bloodiness has been left to splatter all over whatever personal relationships found themselves in its bloody, splattery path.
This has led to a great deal of disconnection. Not just between the left and the right. Not just between myself and people I know. But also between the way I myself interact with the people I know on each side.
So allow me to address all of you at once and let’s see what happens.
The basics of “politics” are something we begin to understand at a young age. Take a political concept that any four or five year old child would understand: Maps! When we look at our first maps, we see many different colored countries or states, understanding that each shape is inhabited by different societies. As we get familiar with who those societies are – Romans, Russians, Ottomans, Ethiopians – we become familiar with the borders which surround them.
Borders are a quite rudimentary political concept. They define the territory of nations and these nations make sure their borders are protected. And even if not by erecting imposing fortifications, these borders are enforced when nations document who the citizens of a country are.
This is pretty basic stuff. You don’t have to do a lot of research regarding the functionality of a political border because as a small child, you already understood its logic to its full extent. But rather than framing any American border issue around the quasi-innate rationale a child, one side has come to see people who support functional borders as “racists.”
I won’t go into any other examples other than to say that this is what every political issue looks like to me and the rest of us on the right. Whether it was learning about how a map works, learning about how a supply and demand curve works or learning how equal human rights work, when we introduce some applied knowledge into a discussion we discover that “we hate people.” I doubt many on this side would disagree with my thesis.
This is the nature of the divide as I see it. The end of understanding and the death of communication. And if one could identify the main tragedy behind politics, it is in its allowance for belief systems that have no congruity whatsoever to alienate so deeply. But whatever you make of my thesis, what can’t be denied by now is that each side of the political divide does not talk to each other. There is no common frame of reference, there is no functional communication and there is currently no such thing as real political dialogue on any level.
If you are a left-winger with a different thesis, I respect that. I’m sure there are plenty of chicken and egg theories that explain why the right are who have destroyed the dialogue.
The thing is, that at this point, I have no more questions about what divides us all. And that’s why I am not bleeding from my “wherever” about it all as much. My preference is to move past what defines each ideology and venture into the uncharted territory of how they might coexist.
I only see three ways to do this. The first would be for both sides to bend on their values and equitably trade away their beliefs to the other. This is our current political barter system of “compromise”, though If people can’t even communicate, they are hardly likely to trade, so it’s fair to say that “compromise” is a fairly hopeless system.
The second avenue would require us to adopt a common basis to measure all things political. My suggestion for such a measure would be the Enlightenment definition of natural rights. By using this measurement we would be able to identify the deep flaws in each ideology. And having recognized the flaws in each, we could begin the process of “collaboration” where institutions could be imagined and built which complimented each ideology and violated neither.
(If this quick explanation of “collaboration” flew over everyone’s head a bit, take note that collaboration is rarely taking place, so there’s no reason for such a concept to seem familiar. For now at least.)
The third option for political diplomacy is humor. Although I have a decent sense of humor, it has often been hijacked by the futility of debate, and I am embarrassed about it. We aren’t exactly having fun when you are kicking down my ideas and I’m kicking down yours. Sometimes the simplest answer is that you are a Libtard and I’m a Teabagger; Bernie is a Commie and Cruz is a Fascist. No big deal. I can live with being a homophobic, racist, xenophobe if it’s good for the occasional chuckle. (I can do it… I know I can…).
The point is that at some point, we have to connect, or things will never get better.
To those of you on the right, you know I’ve been there in the trenches for a long time. The dues are paid and the resume is available. But it was only after I quit and stepped out of the trenches that all of the wide angle battling came into focus. When I was able to comprehend how it all works, I wrote a book about it, and I believe that half of our anger comes from not understanding the other side. Pulling out hair and wanting to kick people is honorable, but understanding why it is happening is a bridge to some new possibilities. (Check out the book).
Without doubt, many of you have those friends who you don’t talk to anymore, or things aren’t quite the same as they used to be. I had intended for part of this piece to focus on the misery of feeling disconnected from people that we were all close to and lost – over ideas. And though these ideas are deeply coveted on each side, maybe the trade off isn’t worth it. I know there are those of you who wrestle with this, and aren’t sure whether to blame them or to blame yourself, and so the divide remains in place. In the end, blame doesn’t work too well no matter where it’s directed.
I’m still with you, but I’m less likely to go back on the front lines. There are other options.
For those on the left, I say to yee…. Hey yee!! How’ve you been?
As the majority of my friends and acquaintances, we were each others closest test subjects when studying this garbage on the human level, and it’s not surprising what some of the results have been. Nothing good, eh? Having been deeply involved in the game is going to be my excuse for being the disproportionate source of the discord between us.
With that said, I’d like to explain my perspective to you in hindsight: When I got interested in it all, it wasn’t about what I wanted society to be. That approach seemed self-centered and less than scientific. Rather, it was about being a student of social systems and siding with the ones that seemed to be the most beneficial, regardless of what label it would find me tagged with. I wanted to identify ideas that I could determine “worked” and to advance a process of reason. It seemed the least arrogant way to study a society in common and was the road map for “How to get along” in my estimation.
Then I realized that almost all of my favorite people took a different approach to “How to get along” which led to the road of not getting along… at all.
I was pissed!
But in the end, I accomplished what I set out to do. I had started by learning and then began fighting. Only when I quit fighting was I able to begin learning again and having done so, I now believe there really is a map to “How to get along.” This would include the diplomacy of humor, which I am thankfully regaining, but also the potential for “ideological collaboration” as a theoretical social strategy.
If getting along can be done in theory then it should also be possible in practice. For me, I would prefer for this to include all of the people that I like.
And so moving forward, I simply say this…
Hippies and Cops… Best friends forever!