Count Higher Than Two

NaBloPoMo 2020 — Today’s Lesson

I’m starting to hear echoes of 2016, when a friend posted, “Well, now we know where the dumb people live.”  To some, if you voted this year to re-elect the president you are wholly and irrevocably:  stupid, ignorant, racist, misogynist, monstrous, evil—and more.  You are judged and defined solely by this one action.  Nothing else need be known about you; you are garbage. 

It’s us vs. them, good vs. evil, either/or, with us or against us.

This profound yet effortless oversimplification, this refusal to acknowledge, let alone explore, the inherent complexity of any given individual, poisons us all too easily.  It is the venomous root of polarization.  David Blankenhorn, co-founder of Braver Angels, describes it so well in his 2016 essay, “The Seven Habits of Highly Depolarizing People”.  He asserts that “binary thinking—the tendency to divide everything into two mutually antagonistic categories”—is the most dangerous habit of polarization.

It’s to the point where I myself feel unsafe to raise any nonconforming perspective among liberals, lest I’m attacked for upholding the toxic patriarchy I profess to oppose. How ironic that the movement of tolerance and inclusion, that claims acceptance and diversity as core values, not only cannot tolerate but violently rejects even benign and earnest internal dissent.

Can we see our political opponents as more than a malevolent monolith?  Can we allow for complex experiences we don’t understand?  Can we withhold judgment long enough to recognize and honor our shared humanity, before we respectfully condemn each other’s wrong-headed ideas?

Can we ‘count higher than two’ in our attitudes and interactions?  Our mutual survival may depend on it, and I know so few people willing to try.

Our voting choice was binary.  Our thoughts, emotions, speech, actions, and relationships should not be.

3 thoughts on “Count Higher Than Two

  1. You highlight the biggest problem with our current, strong two-party system of politics. With essentially only a binary choice with our vote, it just reinforces the divide of our country into two pieces. I’m beginning to feel like we will never be able to heal this growing rift, the chasm between just seems to get wider and deeper. Perhaps a system of ranked choice voting would allow a moderate candidate to bridge the gap? Somehow the entrenchment of power within just two political parties needs to be challenged.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nancy, I hear you. There are so many layers to the system–how it was originally designed, how it’s been modified over generations, the insidious as well as explicit forces… I also often marvel (despair?) at the enormity of it all. I wonder how we could ever surmount it… But then I remember dynastic China, the Soviet Union, Apartheid. You just never know, AND we can always make our own individual efforts in the direction we want to go. Be the change, as they say. So–ONWARD!


  2. Pingback: Affective Polarization | Healing Through Connection

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