"Stop hating the other party.", says Seth Freeman of The Christian Science Monitor. "As angry and politically active as I am this presidential election, I'm starting to notice a problem as I fight for my side: The more engaged I am and the more the polls seesaw, the more I find I have an ugly desire to see the worst in the other side. The technical term for this condition is hate."
Did anyone out there just wince? I pray that many did, because I don't know anyone who is truly involved in politics who is wholly immune to this, myself included. I have seen the faces of thoughtful, considerate people- the kind who, when discussing a mass murderer, would try to understand the terrible childhood traumas that must have driven him to the act- harden as they spit venom at anyone who would vote for the other party.
"Hate has the annoying tendency to turn into hypocrisy. I laugh with glee when my side catches the other's lies and follies. To a point, that's healthy and cathartic.
But you don't hear me laughing when the other side returns the favor. Then I discount the point and quietly fume at the attack itself. Don't they understand our side is the good one?"
Still haven't winced yet? How about this:
"Hate also kills thinking. In 2004, my wife and I did a simple exercise with some of our liberal and conservative friends.
We asked each to imagine seeing their side from the other's perspective. "We're not asking you to agree with them," we said, "we're just asking if you can understand them."
Though our friends were educated, compassionate, and capable of great empathy, they found our request impossible. "I can't," they said. "Maybe I should, but I can't. They're just crazy – or evil." Perhaps you felt that way recently as you watched one of the conventions. "Who are those people?""
Has anyone recognized themselves yet? Yes, I have been guilty of that emotion- but I also have been actively fighting against it, and have defended both sides from unfair attacks. But I can count on one hand the number of blogs who are doing so; the whole country seems to be wallowing in their spite.
"But can I fight hard without damaging my heart, my relationships, or the country I claim to love?
Borrowing from two astute politicians, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, I'm looking for ways to want good things for the other side, see the good in them, and genuinely see the force of their arguments."
Don't you wish those words had appeared in a UU blog? The sad truth is that the UU blogosphere is damaging hearts, relationships, and the country without fighting effectively for their side. You think I exaggerate? Look at what we have been posting; as an old local politician myself, I can guarantee you that no mind has ever been changed by a "GILF" tee shirt, a "Jesus was a political organizer" button, or accusing your opponents of being racist- if anything, it hardens hearts against you. Can you show me a blog post with an in-depth, deeper-than-bumper-sticker discussion of issues? The only ones I can think of are Rev. Debra W. Haffner's- and she was only using political news as a hook for her standard (excellent) sexuality discussions.
Can't we take the lead here? We're UUs; we pride ourselves on bringing rational discussion to moral issues. As Seth said, "Think of it as a kind of counterinsurgency. Or a response to another, more serious, inconvenient truth."