A Nation at the Crossroads

I remember the night my husband and I jokingly imagined who would make up Donald Trump's cabinet if he were to be elected. It was a spirited debate on the pros and cons of a Kardashian in the Administration as well as placing Bill O'Reilly and Maury Povich in advisory roles. But then it actually happened, Trump was elected into office. 

I thought the divisiveness that showed itself during the campaign would be set aside, in favor of unity and the common good of all citizen of the United States. Sadly, that has not happened. People seem to talk about each other. And quite viciously too. Team Trump, Conservatives, Republicans, The Right versus Team Hillary (or Bernie), Liberals, Democrats, The Left. How do you move past the name calling and muckraking to substantive conversations that allow for all perspectives? I'm genuinely asking. 

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Candidate vs. President Trump

My approach has been to talk to folks, not at them. I remember the first Trump supporter that was willing to share with me his views on why he thought Trump was the right person to lead the nation. In that particular conversation, the focus was on the changes to tax laws. In conversations with others, the reasons were varied. In general, affluent folks talked about taxes. Less affluent individuals talked about jobs. Everyone thought Trump's business acumen would be of great benefit to the country. Having those discussions was eye-opening. 

I've circled back to some of the same individuals to ask their opinion on the job President Trump has done thus far. Some are happy and still firmly behind him. Others have changed their views. Again, I am glad to have these conversations. The contentious fighting on Capitol Hill, the coverage of every word and deed of Trump in the media, and with the heinous acts of violence and hate speech occurring around the country it seems unlikely that anyone would be willing to discuss politics. Moving us back in time to the days when most American's abided by the unspoken rule, we don't talk about politics (religion or money) as a way of politely dodging the issues in the hopes of keeping the peace. After all, level-headed individuals want to throttle each other in heated exchanges when talking politics. Many a family meal has been ruined, and relationships severed because it's such a contentious topic.

We cannot afford to close ourselves off 

Only listening or reading the opinions we agree with on television and in print is risky. Realize that television personalities and news reports can be slanted toward a particular view. You and I need to do our diligence and seek out as many sources as possible to obtain a complete picture of what is happening in our world. It's time to exercise critical thinking skills as we never have before, to wade through the sensationalism and bias. Allow yourself to question everything and thoroughly examine the answers you find, especially if they differ from your position. If you staunchly hold to a particular opinion ask yourself to see someone else's point of view. Be open.

Work on changing your mindset

A willingness to learn from and engage with others is key to our growth and a first step toward gaining greater insight. It can be difficult to accept other people's opinions, especially about sensitive subjects you have strong feelings about. However, everyone has to deal with people they disagree with at times. If you're comfortable with yourself, you'll be less sensitive when other people disagree with you. If you run into conflicts, approach them in a calm fashion. We have to learn that it's okay to disagree without taking offense. Know that tensions can rise, but we have the ability to control our emotions, even when dealing with sensitive and deeply personal topics. And, if you struggle with this approach it's okay. Maybe you need to avoid certain conversations, while you continue to work on yourself until you are ready to engage with others differently. 

I'm encouraged about the direction we are headed, and it has nothing to do with a sitting president or which party controls the executive branches. My hope resides in people. There are good people on both sides of the issues that are willing to talk. Folks that understand a nation divided cannot stand. For those that are waiting for the tone to be set by political leaders or the media, I suspect you will be disappointed. As with most anything in life, change starts from within, and then you connect with others that have the same desire to work together for the good of all people. 

What can we do? Start by turning off the television, get out of the house and away from your circle of friends. Reach out to someone who looks different, has different views and start a conversation. Share your thoughts on how we can improve our current condition and listen to others. Let's connect!