“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
Back when I was a young college student, I casually argued politics with a friend who responded to my argument by saying, “Your ignorance is showing.” I was both stunned and insulted. I paused and wondered if I was in fact ignorant . . . I knew I had a lot to learn but after briefly reflecting on the limits of my knowledge and experience, I concluded that calling someone else ignorant is probably a sure sign of ignorance.
Rather than opening up the conversation to look for commonality and learn from each other, namecalling or even judging someone else as “ignorant” (even when you’re not so forward in your namecalling) does the opposite. It labels and closes the door to engaging in deeper discourse and breeds hatred by limiting our understanding of each other and focusing instead on our dissimilarities. This creates a system of exclusion, not inclusion. It polarizes and creates division and hatred in place of unity and love.
When we are polarized and divided, we believe in our own values or issues as right and we determine anything different is wrong. We subscribe to a dualism of good and bad and we determine that we are good so everything and everyone else must be bad.
The music turns off and we shut down the dance we call discourse, rather than opening it up, turning it up and seeking to learn and understand each other.
Our arrogance feels safe. As a mother, the most upsetting flaws of my children are those habits and behaviors they got through imitating me. Whether it’s the overindulgent appetite of a child quickly gaining weight during a critical time of development, the argument a child makes against the unequal parenting/discipline of her siblings, a child being distracted by electronics rather than conversing with people, or nervous mannerisms, I criticize what I see of myself in them and distance myself from their flaws (like they’re such monsters for acting in those ways and I’m so above that). I think this type of denial and desire to separate ourselves from the flaws of others we subconsciously see in ourselves is so common among us. That’s why the working class is so divided and distracted from bread and butter issues. We spend too much time and energy separating ourselves from those that are like us rather than recognizing the dignity of each person and working together to solve underlying problems.
If we started by looking at what we share in common and caring for each other by putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes (while simultaneously self-reflecting and owning our own shortcomings), it would be easier to build bridges of love rather than walls of hatred.
You can dislike our President (I sure do!) and you can dislike the candidate that ran against him. Well, I do too. You can hate the policies that tear families apart and hurt innocent children (and women and men). I do! You can also hate and be concerned about the many children and women that come into this country as modern day slaves . . . Yes, slavery exists here in this country and I hate it and think it’s important we ensure the adults bringing children into this country are caring family, not pimps and abusers.
You can and we should all work our butts off to fight for human rights and donate what we can to causes that do so. We can and we should do what we are capable of to serve others. It’s good for others but it’s also good for our souls.
Instead of putting each other down, let’s try to understand each other. Instead of labeling each other, let’s look beyond labels and look for our common humanity. Let’s be real with ourselves and examine our own fears and insecurities. There’s a saying that there are two sides of a story, just like there are two sides of a coin. But whether your coin lands heads or tails, it’s still a coin. Regardless of your political orientation, creed, able-bodiedness, intelligence quotient, charm, gender, sexual orientation, color of your skin, nationality, immigration status, you are a person like every one else. You deserve love and to be treated with dignity. Every person is deserving of love and dignity.
For example, take the issue of guns. We can all agree we have a school shooting problem as well as a gun violence problem in this country. Some say mental illness is the underlying issue. Others say the problem is how easy it is to purchase and access guns. There is no doubt guns make it easier to hurt or kill people and once a trigger is pulled, it cannot be unpulled. There isn’t time to break up a fight or intervene. The NRA stands by the slogan, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” And there IS something to that. Yeah, guns are incredibly dangerous if not kept safe and locked up from children. Yeah, guns can kill quick. Yes, certain guns should not be easy to purchase. But they are an object, not at actor.
Guns can also be used to hunt for food, which is good if you’re an omnivore. They can be used to protect people and children. They can even the playing field a bit as far as human strength or fighting ability. The people I know that own guns are big advocates of gun safety and training, and that’s important. If we regulate guns differently, would guns be objects more accessible to the elite and less accessible to the working class? I don’t know.
I do know you can be a “Mom Demanding Action” and fierce anti-gun advocate and still be friends with and converse with some white rural Grandpa wearing a NRA hat and worried that the government will take his guns. Then you can problem solve because you can look for what you share in common. The NRA guy might very well say he’s concerned about guns falling into the wrong hands but he also might ask what the cost of regulating guns differently would be and whether more regulation is in fact effective in preventing gun violence. And if you are listening and not getting defensive, you might agree and share your legitimate concerns. You can build consensus.
We may disagree with our neighbors on a lot of the issues, but issues aren’t as polarized as evil wants to make them. Any time something is totally polarized, it’s divisive and prevents unity. And that’s where the evil lies. I am not justifying a politics of indifference. Contrarily, indifference is NEVER morally justifiable. But when we scream and shout (or Facebook rant) and put each other down without listening, what is that doing? It’s wasting time and energy dividing us from each other when that time and energy could be used to listen, collaborate and problem solve. Some people like to accuse others of flip-flopping on issues. But clinging to one extreme standpoint of being pro or anti is intolerant, elitist, and yes, ignorant. It shows you think you know better than the many other people in this world that have experienced an issue differently than you.
As the primary approaches (tomorrow!), for those that are citizens, NOT voting is the worst choice you can make. It’s the choice of a bystander to injustice. Sometimes people say, “Well, I’m not political” but politics has an impact on you and especially on vulnerable people, whether you like it or not. We have a moral obligation to inform ourselves if we have the cognitive capacity to do so and make a conscientious moral decision for the good of all people, especially those without a voice.
I would argue that while single-issue voting is effective at pushing an issue to the forefront, it is also closed-minded and abrasive. It makes no space for learning, listening or problem-solving. Whether it’s gun rights or “reproductive rights,” any time you choose one single issue to be for and against, you are closing yourself off from collaborative problem solving.
As a pro-life Democrat, I vote for democratic candidates because I think the DFL does a better job advocating for life once it’s born. Babies are so vulnerable and it is imperative that children and women (and men too) receive access to health care benefits, so they CAN take care of human life. Not every person is privileged with loving, supportive, or financially stable family and friends and although that would be ideal, when we ignore the needs of the vulnerable and expect them to pick themselves up by their boot straps alone and assume others should support them, we are ignoring our own privilege and in doing so, we are turning out backs to God.
Our statistics for maternal and infant mortality are sickening in this country. We are among the worst of developed countries when it comes to maternal care. And your chance of an adverse birth outcome worsens if you are an African-American woman in this country.
I’m pro life because I’m a feminist. Artificial contraception is harmful to women. Being objectified and used by men is harmful to women. Fertility being treated as an enemy during a female’s childbearing years and then a gift when those years are near their end is not good for women. Having an economic system that fails to reward women’s work at home when her children are young and make a place for her in the traditional workplace when her children are older is not good for women. A system in which women have to work outside of the home to make ends meet and not have the most influence over their own children is not good for women. And guess what? It’s not good for men either. It’s not good for children either. BUT I also have many pro choice friends that really believe being pro choice is feministic. While I totally disagree, and I have strong feelings about the eugenic culture abortion, contraception and sterilization are based on, I think both sides can agree we need better prenatal and maternal care for all women.
If supporting childbearing women is not femenistic, I’m not sure what is. Those of us that have a lot of children also have a tremendous impact on future generations, since we our the first and primary educators of our children. And each child can and will make a difference. So, rather looking at single issues in a polarized way, we need to ask our political candidates follow up questions. Their plans should be deeper than simple labels like “pro choice” or “pro life” or “anti gun” or “pro gun.” And if politicians prefer to define themselves by labels and extreme platforms rather than being willing to listen and even change/evolve as they learn more from others’ experiences, maybe we should vote for a different candidate and say, “Hey, your ignorance is showing.” I will vote for the candidates with life/personal experience/leadership/career experience that shows they value relationships and know how to serve and listen to people that share perspectives and experiences different than their own.