In recent weeks, people of all political stripes have expressed fear of turmoil and riots following this year’s election. Even Facebook is reportedly preparing for such election-related unrest.
And not surprisingly, certain candidates are exploiting these fears with promises that only their victory will restore civility and peace.
Those claims are untrue. Don’t be so naïve and gullible to believe them. Only you can lead the rally for Post-Election Peace (PEP).
The reason is clear: The blame for the acute polarization of our views lies not only at the feet of many of our nation’s media outlets but also our insistence upon being fed one-sided narratives that support our myopic views and opinions.
Self-imposed brain-washing is the most gratifying form!
Look around at today’s political discourse, particularly those posted on social media such as Facebook. People become completely unhinged, flying off the rails when faced with someone posting a comment contrary to their views.
How did we become so rigidly divided? The answer is simple.
The following best illustrates what we have done to ourselves.
Imagine if you will, a world (sorry, Mr. Serling) where everyone is a member of a courtroom jury and is given 3 choices: 1) listen only to the plaintiff’s attorneys, 2) listen only to the respondent’s attorneys, or 3) listen to both sides before drawing conclusions.
Now, look in the mirror. If you are angered or exasperated by anyone espousing an alternative political view, then clearly your choice has far too long been either #1 or #2 and most definitely not #3.
Yes, I hear your retort: “How dare you! I get my information from a variety of news outlets.”
Not really. Don’t fool yourself.
What you mistake as a “variety” is often– using my courtroom example - simply listening only to various attorneys (media sources) representing the plaintiff, while you refuse to listen to those of the respondent.
From a young age, I became a “news nerd” following current events. Forgive my digression, but I can still visualize my mom’s distraught look when I announced that signing up for Cub Scouts was a waste of time. After all, the Cuban Missile Crisis would soon leave us all dead. And of course, President Johnson’s campaign advert a couple of years later nuking the daisy girl didn’t help much. Nevertheless, I could not get enough political and world event news.
I was unwittingly naïve during those early years. I did not realize just how distorted that so-called news reports could be until I came to Washington to work on policy issues for former Congressman Tom Tauke and Senator Chuck Grassley. I was stunned by the frequent bias, omissions, distortions, and outright lies that were published and broadcast by supposedly reputable news outlets. And regrettably, it has exponentially worsened in the subsequent decades.
As the use (and predictable derision) of the terms “fake news” and “alternative facts” increased in recent years, I couldn’t help but smile. These terms best described what I encountered over 40 years ago.
Today, far too many news outlets, journalists, and reporters obsess over satisfying their paying customers who outrage at neutral, unbiased headlines and stories, and instead insist upon being fed more red meat in hopes that their tribal interests and views prevail.
It reminds me of President Obama suggesting that if he believed what Fox News said about him, he would not vote for himself either. No doubt President Trump has the same view of CNN and a few other media outlets.
So be assured, that as long as we allow ourselves, our like-minded friends, and our favorite media outlets to perpetuate one-sided views and shutter freedom of speech of those who disagree, no elected leader can assure post-election peace.
So what is the answer? You need to lead the PEP Rally. You and all of us need to force ourselves to begin listening to a true variety of news outlets and opinions. I frequently recommend that people turn to the news aggregator Real Clear Politics which does a good job of linking articles and opinions of opposing views regarding the issues of the day.
You don’t have to believe me, a Republican. Remember, it was President Obama who said:
“If you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in a while. If you are a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns of the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship.”
Did you get that? It’s essential for effective citizenship. So, as we broaden our base of information and knowledge, our understanding of differing views will grow as well. We can urge our friends into doing the same…one person at a time. It will bring our anger under control and reduce tensions…and hopefully begin to restore civility and healing to our country.
A good start for this PEP rally plan is to embrace an interesting message I saw on a bumper sticker: “Don’t Believe Everything You Think.” Question your information and seek out the other sides of the arguments. Be a juror who truly selects option 3 and listens to both sides before drawing conclusions.
We should strive to no longer find ourselves screaming in exasperation: “I will never understand ________! (You can fill in the blank.)
Instead, we need to reach the point where we can calmly state, “I understand your point of view. I respectfully disagree, but I do understand.”
The 2020 P.E.P rally is counting on you. Lead on.
Ken Cunningham former Chief of Staff for Senator Grassley.