I walked out of the store and there it was, in plain English, what felt like the most absurd statement I had ever seen.
"We are all one human family." It was a bumper sticker on a car driven by, I can only assume by the other stickers, a Bernie Sanders supporter.
It had been month's since the election. Had this person come to realize just how out of touch that statement seemed today? I myself have written similar garbage somewhere, but it wouldn't even cross my mind to write those words today.
I get the sentiment. What it's really trying to say is, "We are all one human family and we need to come together and respect each other and listen to one another, especially those who aren't like us, such as people of different races and religions and sexual orientations and on and on and on and blah blah blah."
You know the speech. Of course, being the independent progressive that I am, I agree with all of that.
But, let's be honest. Coming together right now is kind of BS, isn't it?
I wonder if that Bernie supporter feels the same about the conservative Republican Trump voter, who prosthelytized for years about the importance of having Christian values in the White House, who then watched as the candidate who represented those values the least then went ahead and cast their vote for him anyway.
Does Bernie Boy really want to hear them out some more?
I've never been a fan of dishonest conversations, and this is one of them. When I hear the left asking that all viewpoints be respected, it's really the left telling the right to respect the viewpoints of marginalized groups. It's never the left telling others on the left to respect the viewpoints of the right.
More than any group today, however, the people actually using the words, "come together," seem to be those on the right, and often times the use of that phrase is just as preposterous as it is disingenuous. When the right wants to find common ground with the left in the culture war, the people they mock with disdain by referring to them as snowflakes, the desire for common ground is often them wanting the left to validate their positions.
Trump calling for both sides to come together after Charlottesville was an example. One side in the debate was sticking up for white supremacists and defending Confederate monuments they didn't want taken down. The other side was condemning them.
I saw it again yesterday with a conservative woman on Facebook who couldn't understand why NFL players wouldn't stand for the national anthem. "We all need to come together," she said. Of course, by "come together," what she really meant is that people should stand and stop protesting.
When conservatives say we need to come together, what they really often mean is, "Your point of view is either making me angry or uncomfortable, and you either need to shut up about it or come back to my point of view." Taken literally, "come together," should imply movement on both sides towards each other. In the real world hearing it from conservatives, it never seems to involve movement on their part.
But this is all so tiring, isn't it? The, "I don't want to listen to you, you don't want to listen to me," game we play back and forth where whoever's winning is best defined as who got in the latest cheap shot.
So, what are we to do? How are we to live and function in a society where "coming together" can be seen as a validation of a worldview that is completely at odds with your own, yet even if you are in the middle politically, no less than 40% of the population thinks differently from you?
At the end of the day, I think it involves peaceful and respectful focus and leading by example. You don't have to get caught up in the back and forth and the finger pointing and the yelling and screaming to make your point. If you want to kneel during the anthem, kneel. If you want to display the flag, display the flag.
God forbid, what if you did both?
And while we don't have to concede ground where we don't feel it's warranted, we do need more listening and understanding. I don't mean that in the patronizing, "You have to listen and understand and ] let's all give everyone a big hug," kind of way. I mean it in the tactical sense of you really do need to listen to, and understand, the point of view of others if you ever want to seek out common goals.
And maybe that's what's wrong with the country today... that somehow people have gotten into their heads that listening and understanding are a concession, and that doing so means you agree with someone else, or worse yet, have conceded some ground.
So perhaps maybe what we need is permission to listen without concession, and perhaps that permission starts with an admission that the idea of coming together, in this current environment, really is kind of BS.
An uncomfortable admission, perhaps, but there's a certain peace that comes with clarity. If it helps us move on, it could be those words are more healing than we think.
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