Every election year, Americans are subjected to negativity, lies, and manipulation. Half-truths and boasting are a common part of speeches and political ads. The sad part isn’t that this stuff happens; it’s part of human nature, after all. The truly sad part is that the candidates vying for our votes are the ones doing it. Their supporters and those currently in office often exhibit the same undesirable behaviors. With all of this going on for months at a time, is it any wonder voter turn out on election day is usually quite low?
Perhaps if honesty and respect were valued above controversy and sound bites, more people would vote. Maybe more people would have faith in the government and the work it does. Maybe instead of having a broken political system, we would have one that is effective.
Yet the problems within the political system are only one symptom of a larger problem. Society as a whole seems to be bent on tearing itself apart in the United States. The push for equality and civil rights has taken a bizarre turn that has led to more division and hate. The issue of gun violence is a great example of this.
Each time there is a mass shooting, regardless of the underlying cause of the incident (a gang fight, racism, etc.), there is a call for more gun control. Each time there is a push for more gun control, gun sales go up and a certain segment of society vocally proclaims the government is trying to take away everyone’s guns. The other side pushes back with claims of needing more gun control to put a stop to gun violence. And the feud continues, driving a wedge into American society and doing nothing but creating more anger and division.
So many of the issues that people are concerned about, including institutional racism and gay marriage, have caused a similar divide. My question is simple. What if instead of trying to control everyone around us, we focused on controlling ourselves? Learn to give respect, including to ourselves. Focus on ways we can get along with others rather than shouting louder than the other guy.
What if we all pushed for true tolerance rather than the twisted version most people appear to want?
Here’s the thing. Tolerance does not mean agreeing. It doesn’t mean supporting a particular cause or holding a certain idea. It means you put up with the things you don’t agree with and show respect to the people who support them. Essentially, tolerance means you follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
How many people want to be yelled at, disparaged, or dragged through the proverbial mud? I certainly don’t. I would much rather be treated with kindness, have my ideas respected (not necessarily agreed with), and be spoken to peacefully.
A few cliches come to mind when I consider the intolerance disguised as tolerance.
If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
What goes around, comes around.
Kill them with kindness.
I propose we all take action starting today to make America a better place to live. You don’t need to organize a protest or attend a rally. All you have to do is show others the same respect you want to receive. Instead of using hateful language, try speaking thoughtfully. Show others kindness, even if you don’t agree with them. If we all live out the idea of treating others as we want to be treated, many of the issues dividing American society will become a thing of the past.