It is no secret that we, in America, are currently experiencing the most hyper-partisan political environment we have had in over a century. It is reported in the news (both local and national) and even the news from other countries poke fun at us for it. Moreover, there is more than ample evidence that that hyper-partisanship has cause us real damage, both financial and societal. So why, given the damage this has done, don’t we do something about it?
There are lots of reason but (in my not so humble opinion) one of the lead causes is that we currently live in a state of echo chambers. For those that don’t recognize the term, it simply means to exist in a state where the people around you share your views and echo your own views back to you.
Again, this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. In 2012, when the Republicans were reeling from the defeat they suffered in their Presidential race (as well as many House, Senate and State races), some of the more aware members of that party got together to try to figure out why they lost and how they didn’t see it coming. The so called Autopsy report pointed out many reasons for this loss but near the top of the list was the idea that they spent too much time listening to each other and not enough time listening to the people that actually… you know… vote. They relied too heavily on “internal polls” which skewed the actual reaction of the voting public in their favor and they were so busy patting themselves on the back for doing a good job (Good job, Brownie…) that they missed the fact that America wasn’t so convinced.
Sadly, this state of affairs is not just a Republican thing. Look at any Democratic or self identified Left Leaning blog and then look at the comments. In those comments, anyone having a viewpoint not in lockstep with the authors of the blog are vilified and insulted. Anyone expressing a similar view is congratulated and idolized. Some blogs even go to the extent of allowing commenters to break the stated rules as long as the commenter is attacking someone with a differing view. The end result is a blog that has lost touch with the reality of electorate and only beholden to their own views – sometimes in complete disregard to logic or history.
I get that it is easy it deal with people who agree with and share your own views. It really is. You don’t have to justify your stances, you don’t even have to use accurate information. They eat up whatever you say – as long as it jives with their own opinion.
Sadly, America is not homogeneous. We represent the entire spectrum ranging to radical, nutcase left to radical nutcase right. We have Greens, Anarchists, Socialists, Communists, liberals, progressives, moderates, independents, libertarians, Constitutionalists, neo-cons, evangelicals, Tea party “patriots”, and ultra conservatives. When an echo chamber ignores that simple fact, they not only do a disservice to the electorate, they do a disservice to themselves.
To accomplish anything in this political ideological mess, you have to be able to work with the people around you, regardless of whether they share your ideology or not. If you start by insulting their ideology or by calling everyone self identifying with that ideology “morons”, “idiots” or “earth haters” or “hippy communists”, you stop any chance of them EVER working with you and it ends up one big tug of war where everyone loses.
In general, everyone believes that their ideology is “right” or they wouldn’t identify as that ideology. When you start a discussion with “your ideology is wrong” (even if it is…), you have ended the discussion, whether you know it or not. Moreover, when that person attacks you for your ideology, you have no one else to blame than yourself. You created a hostile environment from the start, they are just responding to it.
It is time we get out of the echo chambers we have built around ourselves. It is time we put away the rhetoric of strife, inflexibility and hatred and it is long past time that we start working together. If we don’t, the pain we suffered with the economic crash of 2007 will be nothing to coming financial crash created solely by our inability to work together as a country. Instead of spending hours of the day explaining to anyone who will listen how “dumb” or “uneducated” the opposing side is, spend those hours trying to find a common ground with them because no one wins if we don’t figure out how to do that.
Before anyone says it, I am just as guilty of the name calling as anyone else. I do try to save my name calling for particular individuals that actually exemplify the name I am using but sometimes I get a little carried away and speak in generalities. I have tried to work on that, but I am human and make mistakes, too.