It seems like every time I turn on the TV I am bombarded with news story after news story that shows the uglier side of the human condition. Seemingly every issue that is raised immediately gets polarized and politicized. A line is drawn in the sand and people scramble to pick sides before the dust even settles. Added to this we are in the midst of a bitter presidential election, which has brought the worst out of some.
What I haven’t heard or seen much of these days in news or politics are real messages that aim to unify a population that is becoming more fragmented and divisive. I know they are out there, but they are definitely not on the mainstream news cycle I have been watching. There are many reasons for this but the main one I see is that when people come together they have hope, and when they have hope, they tend to be less fearful, and there is no motivator quite like fear. An entire Republican presidential campaign is being run by exploiting the fears of Americans. Fear of the economy, fear of terrorism, and the list goes on and on. It is the main motivation of many people as they decide who to vote for, where to spend their money, and what side of the line (or aisle) they need to be standing on.
The schisms we are seeing in our society are not going to be solved on a macro level. The word compromise is going the way of those out of date words from Shakespeare. Somewhere along the way compromise turned into weakness. Instead, laws are shoved through in backroom deals. When funding can’t be agreed upon, it’s considered better to shut the government down, and when a Supreme Court spot is left vacant, there’s not even a vote held to fill it.
Like it or not we all call this country home, and while we don’t have to agree with one another, we sure need to figure out a way to play nice with one another.
So while my hope for a call for unity on a macro level dwindles, my belief that real change can occur on a micro level remains strong. What I took away most from the Bernie Sanders campaign was his message that we need to work together to make our country a better place. Regardless of your political ideology, race, class, gender, or sexual orientation, we can in fact find a middle ground and a way to compromise because at the end of the day we are all in this together. His campaign had what a lot of campaigns lack these days: humanity. It was a local, personal, grassroots movement. Whether you agree with his politics or not is irrelevant at this point but the message of collectivity and unity which millions of people rallied behind is one that all of us can carry forward independent of who becomes elected president.
I grew up in New Jersey, lived in New York for a short period of time before spending a few years in New England, finally calling Santa Monica my home. Each of these places couldn’t be more different from each other, culturally, historically, and politically, each facing unique problems from one another. But regardless of where I have lived in this country, I have met genuinely good people from all walks of life. On a micro, person-to-person level I have been the benefactor of the kindness of people, more often than not. So, while the challenges that threaten the unity of this country are very real, I won’t accept that they are insurmountable, as my experience has shown me otherwise. Each one of us can begin to make a difference just by how we treat people in our daily interactions. For me the two worst places for my bad behavior are while driving and surfing, so that means I will try to let someone into my lane instead of cutting them off and be kinder to others in the water. Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something.