The past decade brought us many wonderful things, from life-changing advances in technology and medicine to worldwide decreases in poverty and illiteracy.
It also brought us an increasingly divided nation — or perhaps a nation where longstanding divides are increasingly on full public display thanks to social media and 24-hours cable news.
For those who believe such a divide is a bad thing, I would like to suggest a few New Year’s resolutions that will help each of us, as Ghandi so aptly put it, be the change we wish to see in the world.
First, let’s retire the childish notion that all people of a certain political party are evil or stupid or wrong 100% of the time. Sharing a video clip or other example on social media and claiming that it’s evidence that Republicans or Democrats are all (fill in the blank) is no more helpful than sharing a photo of a single cat to “prove” that all cats are black.
The truth is that most, if not all, of the issues our country faces are immensely complex and have no easy answers. In some cases, certain solutions are verifiably more effective than others. But in many cases, what we have are two groups of people who weighed the pros and cons and came up with a different answer because they value different things.
Case in point: I once was participating in a car wash to raise money for an extracurricular group I was part of, along with two people I’ll call John and Emily. Partway through the fundraiser, John pulled me aside.
“Can you try and keep Emily from being the one filling up the buckets?” he asked. “She doesn’t put enough soap in them, so it takes longer to scrub the bugs off the cars.”
A moment later, Emily pulled me aside.
“Can we get John to do something besides fill up buckets?” she said. “He puts way too much soap in them, so it takes too long to rinse off the cars.”
The confidence each had that their way was right made an impression on me.
Maybe you’re the type of person who believes there is, in fact, a single, indisputable “right” answer to how much soap should have gone in the buckets and everyone else is an idiot compared to you for not seeing it. Or, maybe you feel more like I did: The amount of soap in the buckets was “right” for each person, based on their preferences of getting the washing or the rinsing done more quickly. And at the end of the day, both amounts of soap got the car clean.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t advocate for their own preference for “soap” in our nation’s collective bucket. Constructive discussion can help the best solutions rise to the top.
What I am saying is in 2020, let’s agree to stop contributing to simplistic “everyone’s a total hero or complete villain” thinking.
Let’s grow out of the immature name calling and act like adults (yes, I’m looking at you, people who think you’re being clever or helpful by commenting “Flush down Kate Brown” or “Trump is orange hehehe” on everything).
Let’s develop the humility to realize that all human beings, including ourselves, are very frequently wrong, in ways we never even realize.
Let’s resolve to not share anything via Facebook, text, email, word of mouth or other mediums that we haven’t made a good faith effort to vet.
I am constantly disappointed by the number of seemingly intelligent people I am friends with on social media who constantly share fake quotes and made-up “facts” that are easily debunked with a 30-second Google search or just some basic critical thinking.
Let’s stop seeing serious issues such as national security or health care in terms of scoring “points” for your “team.”
Instead, let’s all resolve to do a better job of finding common ground. Instead of endless debates about whether global warming is a hoax or will kill us all in 20 years, the world would be a better place if people put down their keyboards and spent that energy on planting a tree or picking up litter together.
We can’t control the national dialogue, but we can hold ourselves accountable for our own contributions to it.