No one wants to talk about compromise unless they know someone else is meeting them halfway, or three-quarters of the way, or how about I don’t have to move at all. How about you just see that I’m right and you’re wrong, and you come all the way over here where everything is going to be marvelous. Or we agree to disagree and maintain that you are absolutely wrong and ignorant and unequivocally stupid. And we’ll both talk longingly about that magical place called middle ground that no one ever sets foot on. Or how about we just stop talking to people who think differently than us, slough them off like the dead weight they are. Let’s pigeon-hole them as socialists or homophobes or hippies or misogynists or hate-mongers or communists or feminists or religious nuts and leave them there to rot.
Yes, let’s do that.
Because that’s how change happens, right?
Then maybe, just maybe, we should rewind and start redefining compromise. Maybe we should look at why no one actually sets foot on middle ground. Maybe we should think about making the trip regardless of whether or not we are met halfway. Maybe we should even reach an arm through the barbed wire fence in the center. Maybe change is going to cost us some comfort. Maybe that’s how it should be.
I do not care where you land on the political spectrum, I will confidently state that you are not content with the way things are. No one wants a government that has been spending out of control for decades or a congress that can’t agree on anything more important than the nutritional value of pizza. No one is looking at this country and thinking, well that’s certainly one well-oiled machine – nothing wrong under the hood there.
Don’t get me wrong, I love America, but saying that we have everything under control and running smoothly is an outright lie. Saying that we are incapable of doing better would be an injustice to this country. I’ll have no part of selling ourselves short. We have more potential than what we are currently seeing in this broken system. There are things wrong with this country that need fixing. I think most of us can agree on that.
However, that seems to be where the agreement ends. That’s where the finger-pointing and pigeon-holing and name-calling starts. We get so nasty with one another that we seem to forget our humanity. Because if we don’t blame each other then we would have to turn that finger right around. We would have to take on some personal responsibility and that stuff is heavy. It’s uncomfortable. It’s humbling. And if you think about it too long, it’s probably exactly what we need.
If we start examining our beliefs and scrutinizing where we are going wrong, we’re already much closer to the middle than when we started. From there, perhaps we can start to see what we look like from the other side. Maybe we can start to look into the eyes of the “opposition” and see a human being. Maybe we can sympathize with their plight. Perhaps we can belly-crawl all the way to empathy.
Because that is where we need to be if we’re really going to see change. Empathy will take us the distance and then some. If we look upon ourselves with their eyes and feel what they feel and understand why, how fast the world will change. How quickly we will change.
When it comes down to it, I don’t think what we want is so different. Right or left or anywhere in between, we want a system that works. We want a land of opportunity. We want to see our efforts, individual and combined, flourish. We want to be respected by our fellow man. I don’t think either side is particularly malicious or ill-intentioned. I think we’re just misunderstanding one another in the extreme because we’re yelling across such a vast field.
So let’s make that journey across the field. Let’s meet them more than halfway. Let’s get a little uncomfortable and really learn what it means to be open-minded. Let’s find our way to empathy and stand in that mythical middle ground for real. Because only when we find ourselves standing there on solid, unbroken ground we can begin to enact change. Only by reaching a hand across to the other side can we start a conversation that is not for one side to win and one side to lose. A conversation that will propel us towards the sort of America we all want to see. The kind of change that seems impossible, it’s sort of up to each and every one of us, isn’t it?
Gemma Hartley is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno with a BA in English Writing and blogs regularly at gemmasjourneyoflove.blogspot.com