Us vs. Them
The Women's March is a distant memory or at least that's what it feels like in the midst of constant media coverage of the new executive orders. I would still like to take a moment to reflect on a few points from my experience two weeks ago.
While much of the nation was making their way to Washington D.C. over the Presidential Inauguration weekend, I was leaving the district and heading out to Omaha, Nebraska. (I heard they were having a women's march that was going to be a pretty big deal and I wanted to check it out).
My main reason for hightailing it out to the Midwest was to spend a little quality time with my favorite Nebraska people, especially this fantastic creature. I hadn't exactly been looking forward to January 20th, but my weekend ended up being pretty great. It may or may not have included learning choreography to one of my friend's old high school routines (it did). In all seriousness, we actually did attend the Omaha Women's March, and I thought that overall, it was also pretty great too.
My friend and I spent some time beforehand discussing the March's mission and what participating specifically meant to us. The current social and political culture is tense. Maybe you've noticed? We wanted to ensure that we were participating in something that had an intent of inclusiveness and positivity.
Our march wasn't set to start until the evening, so we watched the news Saturday morning and felt inspired as millions of marchers worldwide poured through the streets.
Our little march included men, women, and families of various walks of life with speakers scheduled to talk at its conclusion. After taking over the Old Market streets, we settled into our seats and listened to a row of panelist who took turns introducing themselves and their causes. They included a representative from Planned Parenthood, a woman who identified herself as a black intersexual, and a Native American woman from the Omaha tribe. The panelists spoke about their personal and professional experiences surrounding women's health, the importance of initiating dialogue with people who hold differing views from your own, and of the various races and groups of women who were being marginalized within the feminist movement. There were moments during their dialogue where I felt irritated, moments when I felt uncomfortable, but mainly I left with a renewed sense of inspiration and a mission to become a more active participant in my community and to engage in opportunities of substance.
Us vs. Them
It wasn't long before the first marcher's feet hit the D.C. streets that men and women began to voice their opposition. I'm from a small homogenous Missouri town have settled in a diverse urban area; thus my newsfeed is a hodgepodge of contrasting "Boos! and Yays!" for most politically fueled events. I have considered the mix of perspectives beneficial in my on-going attempt to make sense of this crazy world, but as of late, the ever-escalating vitriolic levels of discourse have had an immobilizing effect on me. I hesitated for weeks to write about my weekend in Omaha. My fingers hovered above the keys knowing that I could voice too strong of an opinion on views associated with the march or maybe not voice an opinion strong enough?
Through reflection on this inner tension, I've been left not wanting to expand on my experiences at the march but rather on my general frustration with this false binary that I'm starting to see everywhere I look (including the mirror).
We are all complex creatures with many shades of variation in our views. We often see the world not as it is, but as an accumulation of our experiences, which leaves many of us flawed by some unknowable blind spots, myself included. I think that far too often we are forced into one of two boxes on a wide array of subjects. These boxes can't possibly represent the nuances of thought and experience that truly represent the scatter plot where many of our thoughts actually fall. This forced choice creates an "us against them" mentality. Which is only made stronger by Facebook algorithms and our confirmation bias or rather, our very human tendency to seek out information that verifies our original opinions. This only solidifies in our minds that "we" are the righteous, the moral, the right, and "you" are at best, ill-informed and at worst the immoral enemy.
I’m no better than anyone else in this regard. I click on articles with titles that I agree with and then pat myself on the back when my opinions are validated. I need to do better. I need to do better because I don’t think I’m going to fair too well in the current political climate otherwise.
These poles are pulling us into a delineated sea of people who if not so intensely charged would likely accomplish far more together than we ever could apart. My point is not that you shouldn't fight for your cause, or that I shouldn't fight for mine. Opposing views are important and, "If you avoid disagreeing, you leave faulty assumptions unexposed.” My hope is only that I can continue to work towards an ability to see the forest for the trees and embody an attitude of curiosity and compassion, instead of jumping to false and overly narrow conclusions.
Our politicians reflect their constituents, what image do we hope that they mirror?
I'm going to stop this train of thought just short of requesting that we all grab hands and sing We Are The World, but I will leave you with this little piece of perfect timing. I teach a mindfulness lesson to a first-grade class every Monday. This past Sunday, I opened up the curriculum manual (MindUP) to prep my lesson, and laughed out loud at the topic, if nothing else... here’s to hoping it’s easier for the next generation:
Thanks for stopping by and let me know your two cents below!
UPDATE: A friend passed along this podcast episode to me, and it was just too perfectly aligned with this topic not to post:
Hidden Brain-- Episode 44: Our Politics, Our Parenting