We don’t solve problems by entrenching ourselves in disagreement.
This past weekend, two important events took place in the United States. First, on Friday January 20, the country inaugurated Donald Trump as our country’s 45th president.
Then, on Saturday January 21, over one million people marched in the Women’s March on Washington, as well as its sister marches to protest the new president’s policy ideas and past statements.
Following the march, a friend of mine on Facebook shared this quote.
“Protesting ought to be used when human rights have been violated. Protesting because you didn’t get your way is called a temper tantrum—no matter your age”.
Later, I read about a flurry of tweets during the inauguration pointed at the new President’s son, Barron Trump.
Several of these were shocking, but one stuck out to me as particularly malicious.
“#barrontrump looks like a future rapist”.
It is no secret we are extremely divided in this point in United States history. In 2014, the Pew Research Center released this report on the drastic level of political polarization in the U.S.
Just before the 2016 election, another Pew report found these divisions alive and well.
It seems we have some questions to ask ourselves:
Do we want so much disagreement?
Do we want racial divisiveness?
Do we want religious animosity?
Do we want poverty in our society?
Do we want people to be healthy and medically cared for?
Do we want an educated populace?
Do we want unwanted pregnancies?
Do we want crime?
Do we want to move forward together?
Sticks and Stones and Lots of Words
We do not move one step toward solutions to problems by disparaging one another.
Calling the President’s son a vampire or millions of fellow Americans babies does absolutely nothing to foster solutions to social problems.
These actions do the opposite. They build a wall directly in the way of solutions. You don’t build a functioning healthcare system in this way, you don’t agree on reasonable immigration standards, and you don’t save any children of any age.
All you do is push us farther apart.
Hate the Player, Not the Game
We do not move one step toward solutions to problems by attacking the personalities of others.
Many Republicans spent eight solid years decrying the despicable personality of Barrack Obama. They called him weak, dishonest, untrustworthy, undiplomatic, and un-American.
Democrats are now taking their turn with Donald Trump. They call him a misogynist, unfit for the presidency, deplorable, and a sexual predator.
Solutions do not arise from feelings of dislike or hatred toward another person or group. We do not solve a single problem by attacking people for their personality traits.
All this does is push us farther apart.
Just the (convenient) Facts
We do not move one step toward solutions to problems by only listening to the facts that are convenient for our “side”.
The Pew Research Center made an enlightening discovery in 2014 regarding how we get our information. It turns out we focus on very different sources depending on our political affiliation.
As they stated, “When it comes to getting news about politics and government, liberals and conservatives inhabit different worlds.”
We cannot hear one another when we are not listening. We cannot understand dissenting opinions without first listening to those opinions.
None of us is always right. On the contrary, all of us are occasionally wrong. Solutions only happen when we are all looking for true, verifiable facts.
If we want to solve problems, the only realistic choice is to cease debating on the merits of personality, and instead focus all debate on the merits of facts.
Out of Many, One
If we want to solve problems as a country of United States citizens, then we can choose to do so.
We could focus on the facts surrounding the problems we face.
In addition, we could encourage or discourage our elected leaders based on their actions instead of their personalities.
Currently, we are not collectively choosing this path. Instead, we are focusing on what we like or dislike about our leaders and each other, attempting to “win” by making the “other side” look worse than us, and ignoring facts.
We have divided ourselves.
Following the election, a brilliant researcher and author Jonathan Haidt shared his thoughts on this in a TED talk. According to Haidt, it all comes down to who is on our side. If we see each other as Americans who are on the same side, we can shrink the divide standing between us.
He had what I thought was some great advice:
“I think you have to make an effort — that’s the main thing. Make an effort to actually meet somebody. Everybody has a cousin, a brother-in-law, somebody who’s on the other side. So, after this election –wait a week or two, because it’s probably going to feel awful for one of you — but wait a couple weeks, and then reach out and say you want to talk.”
We can choose to solve our challenges in this country, but first we need to decide that we are on the same team.