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.