Monday, August 11, 2014

We Are So Polarized........Why?

As Americans, we have always been a people of different points of view.  It is who we are.  It goes back even to colonial times.  Traditionally, over the years, through social interaction, by sitting down with people of opposing views, on a front porch, over a bale of hay, at a town meeting, in a bar, across a kitchen table, around a conference table, in a classroom, we resolved them, we worked through our differing positions together.  In the past couple of decades, we have gotten away from that.

Today we hunker down, surround ourselves with like-minded people, read, watch, and listen to information and material which reinforces our views. We demonize the opposing position and the opposing people.  In fact, often (research has shown) the more facts people are presented which oppose the validity of their position, the more adamant they get about their position.

Prior to this phenomenon, in prior decades, as we met with and sat down with people of different attitudes, values, opinions, beliefs, and positions, we grew stronger as a result, not more contentious. We built on one another's views. We arrived at consensus. We moved though differences. We built and moved communities forward as a result of the process.  We resolved differences, came out stronger, wiser, more effective, with collective ideas and strategies.

Think about Illinois' Lincoln and Tennessee's Johnson (running mates in 1864), of social liberal FDR and business conservative Joe Kennedy working so effectively. Think of a competitive Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in a garage.  Consider Illinois Republican Everett Dirksen and Texas Democrat Lyndon Johnson crafting civil rights legislation, a Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neil,  Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, a George HW Bush and a Bill Clinton. Opposing ideologies and competitors, but common and collective vision and hope. Collaboration, cooperation, compromise, respect.

We stopped doing that.  We are at each other's throats in the public square.  Why?  What happened to us? We best consider.