The Way We Are?

I’m sure I’m not alone in noticing the hyper-polarized political atmosphere. On social media, I hear about friendships ending over political differences or family members not talking to other family members. This phenomenon isn’t new but, through social media, is more visible, increasing the intensity of the polarization.

This intense polarization changes the way we think, the way we talk, and most importantly, the way we listen. When we allow ourselves to be consumed with a point of view, all our perceptions are filtered through confirmation bias. Anything not confirming our bias is discarded using one or more of the many convenient tools at our disposal such as minimizing the validity of a source. We all do this, so don’t feel bad or try to say you don’t. This is how humans work. The key is to recognize it and openly listen to other points of view.

Another way humans work is to divide ideologies conveniently into two sides to create what is called a dialectic. Some may remember the Miller Lite commercials where one group passionately chants “Taste great” only to have “Less filling” chanted back with increased passion. Miller understood how people think.

Our politicians understand how people think also. We have a two-party system where most of the political platform points are divided into a taste great vs. less filling format. Although there are many, I would like to talk about one in particular; abortion.

The pro-life/pro-choice dialectic has been one of the most destructive forces in America, yet both sides of that dialectic have the same end goal. I know some eyebrows raised up right now, but please keep reading. The abortion rate has been falling for years. Are you disturbed by that? Would you like to see it going up? My guess is, most people think a declining abortion rate is a good thing. We can add conditions to the statement, but, in general, I’d have problems believing people want the abortion rate to go up.

No woman ‘wants’ an abortion. She just doesn’t want to be pregnant. I’ve talked to a number of people who have been part of an abortion decision. None of them talked about having parties or sending cards to friends and family. None of them were making plans for the next abortion. They talked about making a very difficult decision and having to live with making it. It seems some think the opposite of pro-life is pro-abortion, like people are out advocating for women to get pregnant only to get abortions. Neither side is against the idea of preventing unwanted pregnancies.

If a political candidate is asked if they are pro-choice or pro-life, I think the response should be, “That’s a deeply flawed dialectic. I’m strongly in favor the abortion rate being as close to zero as humanly possible. I support programs in education, healthcare, or other areas which would help achieve that goal. Do you feel differently about downward trend in the abortion rate than I do?”

If we recognize ‘both sides’ can agree on a common goal on this topic, I think we can start dealing with issues which merit deep discussions and stay away from fringe politics with fringe candidates. Maybe we can get to the point of voting for candidates on their worthiness of holding office instead of the letter next to their name or what they claim to be their stance on one platform point, ending the insane, hyper-partisan politics and get back to building a country which works for everyone.