Political polarization has been a national reality for decades. But during 2020, the messy but often productive middle ground all but disappeared. As a result, Americans were pressured to move further right or further left or be left behind.
Lines were drawn where lines were deemed unnecessary in the past. Everything became a point of contention. School closings. School openings. Masks. Protests.
With the collapse of the middle, nuance left the building. Without nuance, comments are taken more literally than intended, and productive discussion around complex topics becomes virtually impossible. The result: you are for me, or you are against me. It’s all or nothing. But every adult knows the world doesn’t work that way. Nothing works that way. That way of thinking ensures that things won’t work.
If fair-minded individuals, not politicians, would get together to help solve problems, here and around the world, just imagine the progress we would make as a civilized society. Simply sitting down and having the crucial conversations would lead us to real solutions, not a state of polarization. Then again, the human condition is such that very few people take personal responsibility for just about anything unless their “tribe” is applauding. The blame-shifting is nauseating.
Let’s talk about polarization for a moment. As individuals, we have certain beliefs, but they often contrast greatly with truth. Sometimes congruent, oftentimes not. For example, an unbelieved truth, like eating won’t cause cramps when swimming has been adopted by many as false, yet there is no evidence to support it. Remember when you were told to wait an hour before getting in the pool or you’d jeopardize your life? At least that’s how it was portrayed. It doesn’t make it so, simply because our parents believed it. Then there’s untruthful belief like people can read minds. So many are convinced that it’s true simply because they’ve witnessed someone skilled at reading body language with “empathetic accuracy”, telling them what’s on their mind. The truth is that only God can exercise mental telepathy. When truth and belief are congruent, as in the earth revolves around the sun, we can act based on that truth and belief. Both conditions must exist before we can move forward to resolve our differences. Polarization robs each of us of the ability to find consensus, with ourselves at times but mostly with each other. In a civilized society that’s an unacceptable way to interact and will ultimately lead to a breakdown of any true progress toward a worthy objective.
Depending on who you listen to there’s often sound logic behind issues on both sides of the spectrum. Consequently, this is a place where conditions are ripe for conflict. Where opinions vary, emotions are strong, and the stakes are high. But by logical observation, there are usually three sides to every story. Yours, mine, and the more accurate one somewhere in between.
Do you see how the lines get drawn? Usually around confirmation bias and often by lies believed to be true. A predictable tactic of an unseen enemy roaming the earth, seeking whom he may devour, as the Bible tells us.
And that’s the Memo.
Steve from our upcoming book Embracing Brokenness