My granddaughter, Simone, was perhaps 4 years old when her mom asked her to help set the table for supper. Not wanting to stop playing, Simone whined and said, “I don’t want to.” My daughter, Rachael, replied, “Simone, you are a part of this family and you need to help.”
Simone stomped her little foot and said, “I am not apart from this family, I’m a part of it!”
Oh, what a difference in the meaning of a word when you add a single space between the letters.
Apart. A part.
One results in separation. The other in inclusion.
Having just gone through an election year, it seemed every time I read a newspaper, turned on the TV, checked Facebook or got my mail, I saw and heard facts and figures, bragging and distortions, and possibly outright lies. And, honestly, who can tell the difference? One candidate would say one thing and it sounded like a wonderful idea. Then an opposition candidate would address the issue, put a new “spin” on it, and suddenly it sounded like a horrible plan.
I tried doing research. Everything I read, instead of talking about issues, put a partisan spin on the subject. Instead of directing me toward an informed decision, I was given party rhetoric – from both sides of the aisle. All I found seemed to widen our differences. Differences that set us apart from each other. Sometimes far apart.
A while back, I was in a meeting. When it was my turn to speak, I calmly stated my view. Suddenly, someone pointed a finger at me, turned red and loudly began berating my opinion. If anything, the barrage of negativity made me dig in deeper to my stance.
Now, let me tell you another story. Again, a while back there was a debate over which candidate to support. Again, I did some research. In the case of one candidate, I observed people screaming at others trying to drum up support. The other candidate? I read several well-reasoned articles that supported viewpoints that resonated with me. You can guess who I supported.
It seems everyone is complaining about the “hate” going on, but in my observation the ones complaining the loudest are the ones doing the most hating. They seem to be saying (mostly yelling), “If you don’t agree with ME, you hate things I know are right. If you don’t agree with ME, you’re wrong.” Let me ask you a question: Have you ever changed your mind about anything because someone screamed at you? My guess, the answer is no.
Back in the day, it seemed journalists had a code of ethics of sorts. Despite their personal politics or opinions, they put those aside to report the news – the actual facts, not their version of them, or the version their network told them to report. We didn’t have a multitude of channels, but we didn’t need them. We could trust the people reporting the news to give us a fair-minded assessment of what was happening in the world. Now, with literally hundreds of news sources, we have less reliable information than ever.
Without my even opening my mouth, I have friends who assume to know how I voted. They are closed to being open to anyone else’s viewpoint but their own.
If I start to explain my view, which in reality may not be a whole lot different than theirs, I get interrupted and shot down, before they even hear what I have to say.
Many seem as if they’d prefer to be apart (separated) from anyone who doesn’t agree with them. It’s easier to yell rather than work to find a place where ideas intersect. It’s easier to hold up a protest poster than work together to be a part of discovering a common good.
So, when I call it a-part-isan politics. That’s why. No one is listening to each other. All they want to do is talk. Or, in the case of many of the TV news talk shows my husband watches, which I simply call “yelling shows,” they want to hear the sound of their own voice. They aren’t on TV to change anyone’s mind. All they are doing is showing off their verbosity. They act like they are debating each other when, in fact, the only listening they are doing is to themselves.
Like it or not, this country is where we all live. We are a part of the same country. If our country is as bad as some would make it out to be, there wouldn’t be immigrants trying, at the cost of their very lives, to get here. When are we going to stop yelling? Stop assuming? Stop hating? And start working together?
We are at the start of a new year. We have 365 days in which we can decide to stop yelling. Take a deep breath and listen to each other. We have 365 days in which we can do our best to move from separation and living apart to becoming partners in this place we call home. America. The United States of America.
Roxanne (Roxy) Henke lives in rural North Dakota with her husband and their dog, DeeDee. She exercises her civic duties and rights by being an informed voter and calling her congressional representatives when she has an opinion to voice. She is the author of eight novels. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.