I really have to work at suppressing the urge to make political slurs. I am conscious of the smarmy remark as it bubbles up within me: the kind of remark that would make those who share my political ideologies laugh out loud and nod their heads approvingly. I began to notice my tendency to do that after listening to my co-workers making comments (we all work at a television news station - uh, kind of can't escape the political coverage there). It's completely understandable. It's school spirit, good old-fashioned competition.
Except these days it is all too evident how damaging it can be to fly the flag of our political ideals. It really only serves to alienate us from each other, and so I decided to try a different tack: I've decided to listen to those whose views I fundamentally disagree with to see if I could learn something from them.
Let me tell you, that is not easy.
It really does have the effect of making one want to lash out or turn away and clap your hands over your ears. So I decided to listen: I'm listening to Obama supporters, McCain supporters, and anyone else who cares to share their views with me, whether I agree with them or not. It really takes some skill to be able to do that - not to sound arrogant, but I'm here to tell you if I can do it, anyone can do it. In fact, I believe more of us should do it.
From talking to people I already see the positives that BOTH sides have to offer: democrats are good at some things, republicans are good at others. Neither side is good at EVERYTHING! Both sides, ultimately, need the strengths of the other. What if all the countries who are trying to put astronauts into space worked together instead of racing each other to be the 'first' to accomplish something? Imagine if you had the strength of the Russians working with the strengths of the Chinese and Americans to explore the final frontier? I bet those 3 countries working together could come up with some amazing things! Better lifestyles all around!
But of course, that means setting aside some pride and stubbornness. And frankly, I see both Obama supporters and McCain supporters being able to do that. Because if there's one thing both sides agree on, it's the strength of the citizens of this country. Even in the midst of our current economic situation, everybody knows this country is going to bounce back eventually, somehow, some way. It might be sooner, it might be later, but it's going to happen.
Perhaps in the voting booth there should be a place where voters are encouraged to write one positive thing about both candidates whose views they 'oppose'. Find one positive thing, something you like about the candidates you didn't vote for. Nobody is completely evil - Randy Pausch said that (The Last Lecture). Everybody has something good to offer, even if it takes a while to reveal itself.
Another thought I had was maybe if enough people voted for a third party, it would get the Democrats' and Republicans' attention in a way that would force them to look at each other as compatriots rather than as enemies. In other words, the third parties would become their 'common enemy', the one thing that brings 2 bickering parties together, usually. I'm not naive, I know the next President will be either Obama or McCain; but my pressing question is what will the next President do to get both parties to work together? Do they even know what to do? What happened to that spirit that unified the House and Senate members singing "God Bless America" together right after 9/11? The 9/11 terrorists are not sufficient anymore; that's why I think a good, strong third party, preferably the Green Party, but I'll take just about any one of the bigger ones, to get Democrats and Republicans to build off each others' strengths, rather than dividing our fine country.