Are they crazy or just stupid? : A plea for understanding by Warren Bull
Image from Pixabay
On June 16, 1858, at the Illinois Republican convention in Springfield, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln kicked off his bid for the U.S. Senate with a speech that included the Biblical phrase, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Lincoln was talking about slavery then. Today our house, America, is more divided, about many issues, than it has been since that speech was given. We have retreated into separate groups where we ask people who share our beliefs and values questions like the one that started this article.
Throughout history people have always interacted with others they feel comfortable with. We’ve always formed political, ethnic and family tribes. Tribes stick together and get irritated with other tribes that don’t share their vision of how things are and should be. That’s not the problem. Healthy airing of differences and complaints leads to better cooperation and understanding.
It’s much more of a problem that we don’t air our differences in a way that makes cooperation possible. Within our tribe we find justification for our particular view of the world, which is less than totally accurate. And darn it, the same thing is going in the other tribe where they have a different view that falls as short from perfection as ours does. We used to bump into members of other tribes daily so we had to manage to get along even though we thought their myopic vision was obviously inferior to our myopia. No group has a monopoly on the absolute truth.
Now, with the Internet and splintered parochial sources of news, physical space is less important. Online and through media we don’t have to leave our cozy, safe and unchallenged niche at all. In Congress and on television when our “leaders” confront their “politicians” they shout out our perceptions as if they were absolute flawless, spend time between rants planning what want to say next rather than listening to the “other” and perform strictly for “us.” The more insulated we become, the less we know about what we do notknow. The less we know about “others” the easier it is to assume they are dangerous people plotting to impose their beliefs on us.
We are like people walking through an unfamiliar neighborhood during a dark and deafening thunderstorm, we need less noise and more light. Our beliefs are just as emotional and irrational as theirs. Regardless of tribe, most of us are in favor of greater gay rights, healing the sick and seeking justice. We are mutually concerned about diminishing privacy due to greater government surveillance. We all want a stronger America. However, looking at questions in the “we” versus “them” way makes finding an answer nearly impossible. For example, does immigration make coexisting more complicated and less orderlyor doesit add to the diversity of experiences and strategies we can use as a nation to solve problems? The real answer is “both.” If we would acknowledge “their” valid points, we could work out a solution together.