Talk to your neighbors. Family. Friends. You’ll quickly discover politics is a big part of life these days. And, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll also realize that the rift between those on the Left, and those on the Right, has never been wider. Of course, there’s good reason for this. Our American brothers and sisters just don’t see eye to eye. In fact, that’s an understatement.
In reality, there exist two Americas. And those two nations aren’t separated simply by class or income, education or location. Those demographics may overlap with the two Americas, but that’s just incidental. They’re truly separated by ideas, by ideology. Really, it goes far deeper. Ideas and ideology are shaped by worldview and perspective, by our very personalities and propensities.
Americans on the Right and the Left are fundamentally different, it seems, and there may be little way to bridge the gap, save through deliberate attempts to do so, trying to understand that we may be fundamentally different, and will never be even close to being the same. We aren’t going to bring every person to our “side.” Not everyone will share our view, regardless of how eloquently, or passionately, we state it.
There are different kinds of minds, of people. And like minds tend to group together, almost unconsciously. This process just happens; it isn’t something we set out to do. The following is likely going to anger you, have you vocalizing your disagreement with fervor. Maybe cursing. And, that’s may be so, whether you’re on the Left or the Right. That’s fine; none of this is strictly true, it’s just a general outline of what’s the case. So please, take this all with a grain of salt. A very large grain, a block or chunk, even. In any event, here we go:
People on the Left value creativity. Self-expression. Progressivism. Liberalism. Cooperation. Spontaneity and intuition. Youth. Peace and defense. Testing boundaries. The arts. Music. Expressive movement. Individuality and forging one’s own way through life. Life happens when it does. Playfulness. Live for today. Human rights are paramount. Black and brown people are beautiful, as well as those who love them. SOUL. Defending the underdog is key. Weird is good, and weirder is better. Compassion means caring for everyone, helping those in need. All lives matter. Religion serves to help the faithful help others less fortunate. Gnosticism and individual spirituality is where it’s at.
Symbols are largely expressive, either creative ways of showing membership in the funky-punky Left, or expressing ideas that set one apart. Experience matters most, and the value of life lies in experience. Expanding consciousness. People on the Left care about animal rights. Human rights. The environment. Flexibility and understanding and adaptability are essential. Education serves to enlighten, to broaden horizons.
Sensitivity is most valuable. The feminine is the ideal. The Democrat, the socialist, the communist, are the ones who know. There is hope in the future, looking to the children for guidance. The disenfranchised should hold their heads high. The privileged should know they had help. Their pronouns are they, ze, zem, and zeir.
Now, folks on the Right are essentially the opposite. Achievement is important, if not essential. Wisdom gained through age. Maturity. War and offense. Competition. Conformity and tradition rank highest. Life’s milestones should happen on schedule. Seriousness. Plan for tomorrow. Sober-mindedness. Faith focuses on judging others, those daring to skirt the rules, religious or otherwise, threatening stability. RATIONALITY. White is right, when it comes to skin. Animals are here to serve us. The family is the foundation. One’s career, one’s income, and one’s status are worth quite a lot. Jobs matter. Religion is about keeping the faith, about the faith of the forefathers.
There’s a great deal of importance ascribed to materialism, and shared symbols show others how well someone on the Right is doing, financially. A straight-laced facade is the ideal, a no-nonsense visage chiseled through hard work. Might is right. Music is important, but the music is more about shared traditional culture, the shared experience, than it is about pure expression. What matters most here?
Portraying oneself as caring about the group, about the shared conservative values. The world is here to serve, and not the other way around. Rigidity and law and order are essential. Education prepares us for the world and a job. Strength and stoicism are most valuable. The masculine is the ideal. The Republican, the capitalist, the Conservative know best. There is hope in the past, looking to ancestors for guidance. The privileged should be proud. They worked hard. Their pronouns are he and she, ye and we.
Does this sound about right so far? Of course, I’m guilty of stereotyping, but it’s done in the service of elucidation, and not condemnation. So, please bear with me a bit longer.
A college kid identifying with Leftist values may have long hair. Or blue hair. A rainbow purse. Or a man bag. Unconventional dress. A car covered in stickers showing that they care about the Earth, about the downtrodden, about underground music.
A college kid identifying with Rightist values may have a neat ‘do, short hair carefully combed. Khakis and penny loafers. A briefcase. A stylish thousand dollar pocketbook. A car that may not be late model, but still a vehicle driven by the successful class. Or, a big truck blasting tunes, the singer crooning about the lows and highs of country living.
Each wishes to portray to others how they feel inside, and about their larger reality.
Of course, there are always exceptions. And these exceptional people are the ones who can bring us any hope of bridging the gap. There are gay conservatives. There are Liberals in the military and police forces. The artists and musicians who value the Second Amendment and love President Trump. The Liberals who refuse to buy into each and every talking point that their “side” offers.
The issue is, for the most part, our choice of friends, our taste in music, and the shows we watch just reinforce our already starkly contrasting values and ideas. We are, essentially, living in echo chambers, and social media only intensifies this. And so, the dark chasm, that abysmal rift, grows deeper with time.
So how do we reach out and foster understanding, bridging the Great Divide, the Right and the Left? Perhaps, it’s those exceptional Centrists, the Moderates, who are not bound to pick a side, “lock, stock, and barrel”, but rather, for whatever internal or environmental reasons, have picked and chosen those aspects of each “side” that appeals to them, personally, checking off only what suits them.
Can we, the Red and Blue, ever see eye to eye? The answer, most likely, is no. However, we can learn to appreciate all of our fellow citizens, and what each and every person and viewpoint has to offer the American scene, and our Global Village.
It’s an asset to know and understand that human society needs both global, as well as local, and national values. We need to be both rigid and yielding, depending on how, when, and where. We can all be more balanced individuals and communities once we understand that each of us is limited by our individual experience and viewpoint, by our very upbringing, neurology, and choices. We must embrace the future, without utter disregard for what those countless generations that have come before us have contributed. We must have a more holistic understanding that what works for one person may not work for the next.
We must value both the “masculine” as well as the “feminine.” We cannot force our views on the entire populace; we have to remember that what makes a civilization truly great, is to comprehend this hidden truth. If there were only Republicans, life would suck. If there were only Democrats, life would probably also suck. Americans have to develop understanding, empathy, and compassion. There is only one Republic, though, and that will shatter without this understanding.
We must develop both our analytical intelligence, as well as our intuition. There is just no other way. No one man or woman, machine or animal, has all the answers. The sooner we can all realize this, the sooner we will stop yelling at those who view, nay perceive, the world differently than ourselves, talking only to a captive audience that only nods its head endlessly in agreement.
We may never agree on core issues, but we can at least agree to listen, to disagree, and to respect one another. Mutual respect is what we all need, but what the Left and Right lack toward each another, as groups, and as individuals. Neither side is perfectly correct; in reality, we all need each other, and what each of us has to bring to our shared world.
In reality, our future must be drawn from the best both the Left and Right have to offer. Even China’s free market experiment is wildly successful, with the greatest number of new billionaires hailing from the land of the red star. If we neglect to balance our free enterprise with social support systems, such as state-run police departments, firefighting services, subways, buses, sanitation, social welfare nets, and more, we risk running into issues yet unforeseen.
The perfect society may require a balance of both outlooks, drawing from two disparate mindsets that must somehow coexist, side by side. We must learn to learn from each other, seek to understand that some Americans are very different than ourselves, and their experience, and inner understanding, can bring each of us insight, no matter how repelling we find them.
So the next time, as a White girl with pink hair and a rainbow purse, or a Black guy with dreads whose quest to help the homeless defines you, think twice before judging the girl in your class who wears skirts, shoes, and neat blouses, or the guy who has a 1950s haircut and talks about his church endlessly. And, vice-versa. It isn’t that clothes don’t matter; they do.
It’s that if you choose to ignore these “others”, you risk an indelible and remarkable learning experience that cannot come to you in any other way; you risk losing connection to people you’d otherwise never interact with; you risk losing the opportunity to grow fully into Who You Really Are.