A Tale of Two Echo Chambers: Looking past the election

This morning, my social feeds are littered with stories, thoughts, and opinions about the second presidential debate. It’s a smorgasborg of liberal, Democratic reactions, shares, and re-shares.

Huffington Post, Dailykos, Vox, OccupyDemocrats, Van Jones, NY times editorials, screenshots, etc..

They all, in one way or the other, say that same thing. Donald Trump imploded last night. He’s dangerous, a threat to our constitution and the American way of life. The least qualified person to ever run for public office, much less the Presidency.

I agree with all of that. Because the people on my social feeds tend to be more or less like me. We’re talking to each other. We get it. We’ll probably all be voting in November. Great.

Here is a screenshot of an email Trump sent out this morning.

Trump Campaign Email, 10.10.16

And the headlines from Breitbart:

Breitbart News Homepage, 10.10.16

Somewhere just outside my echo chamber is another echo chamber where people are sharing Drudge, Breitbart, Fox, etc. with great fervor, reinforcing the message that last night was a comeback for Trump, that Hillary is a danger on par with ebola, that the System is Rigged against him.

At this point, I honestly don’t believe that Trump will become the next President (though there’s always the possibility). But if/when he loses, the forces that ushered him into prominence won’t simply vanish. If anything, they may intensify.

And in four years, if not sooner in the event that Trump has succeeded in fanning flames to the point of combustion, we’ll have to go through this again.

The only way to address the very deep and real divides, fears, and prejudices (on both sides) that brought us to this point is to listen. To read articles and sites that infuriate, inflame, and raise the blood pressure. To understand where the other side is coming from so we can develop a shared vocabulary that allows real communication instead of a shouting match.

If you’re reading this, take a few minutes to explore the Other Echo Chamber. Read things you don’t agree with. . .but see if you can set judgement aside and approach it with an eye towards connection. What happens if we truly try to see the election, and the world, from the other side’s perspective? What kind of change becomes possible?

At a base, elemental level we’re all human. Trump is human. Hillary is human. You’re human. Your relative voting for the Other Side is human. As humans, we all want to feel safe and supported. We all want to thrive in community. We all crave love, health, and joy.

Appealing to and re-connecting with that shared humanity is the only way forward. And that’s not something that a politician can do. It’s not something that can be legislated. It’s something that happens in small moments of presence. It happens when we listen deeply to someone who stands for everything we fight against and meet them where they’re at. When we find the parts of ourselves that resonate with the ‘enemy’ and have the courage to connect.

You may feel like this is wasted effort. That even if you listen, the other side won’t reciprocate. So what. Do it anyway. If nothing else it’ll be a good story.

Here’s the deal: This election is not a one off. It’s an embodiment of a deep divide in our culture. Not just American culture, but global. And we can stay in our echo chambers, shouting at each other, elbowing in each other in the ribs and rolling our eyes. Throwing rocks, both figurative and literal, at the other side.

Or we can grow up and listen without any agenda, trusting in the power of universal humanity to carry us forward.

The alternative is to stay on the current path. And that will not end well.