Updated: Jan 26
I recently wrote that our nation is more divided now than at any time since the American Civil War. Anyone with a pulse and half their wits can confirm this. The division is only going to get deeper, and more violent unless we do something about it.
There is significant conflict in American culture and politics which needs to be resolved. Resolution of conflict requires either constructive discussion or destruction of the opposition. We seem to have lost the capacity for the first, and to favor the second.
The calls today for unity are disingenuous, as everyone knows, because after four straight years of rank divisiveness against conservatives due to President Trump winning the 2016 election, the calls now for unity are heard as: "It's time for us to unify, so sit down, shut up, and do as you're told." This, of course, will only make things worse.
Therefore, I urge everyone reading this, of any political persuasion, to make a commitment to constructive discussion, so that destruction of the opposition isn't necessary.
The following statements are both reality:
Joe Biden was today sworn in as the 46th President of the United States
Millions upon millions of people believe this election was illegitimate
We have to deal in reality. We don't have to like it, but we have to work within it. An additional reality is also that our cultural and political situation is rapidly worsening.
We cannot improve the current situation without constructive discussion. This is going to require overcoming a few human failings which have grown significantly worse in the last few years. For each of these failings, I'm going to make an appeal.
Demigods and Boogeymen
This is first because it's the most crucial. The Constitution of the United States begins with the words "We the People" for a reason, and We the People have to stop counting on mere mortals to save us from ourselves, and have to stop creating Boogeymen out the of the same. Both were done with President Trump. The left made him out to be a caricature of villainy, with a litany of lies, while the right deified him as the one who would save our Republic. There's only ever been one perfect person, and none of us are Him.
When we hold up a mere person to save us, we abrogate that responsibility of ourselves. We the People were always meant to self-govern, and we cannot look to anyone else to save us. Neither can we look to the government to do so, because the government is just people. It's up to us. If we lived by this simple principle, who is President wouldn't matter nearly as much, as it was intended not to in the Constitution. There's a reason the Presidency is defined in Article II of the Constitution, while the Congress is defined in Article I.
Likewise, we cannot raise boogeymen to blame for all the world's ills. When we do so, we similarly abrogate our responsibility to self-reflect, self-improve, and to address the world's ills in a constructive manner.
Appeal #1: Remember these words in the Texas Bill of Rights: "All political power is inherent in the people." Learn it. Live it. Love it.
We've devolved into raw tribalism where everyone on the "other side" is evil simply because they're on the "other side." Perversely, many people adopt their positions on various issues based on how they perceive "their side" to feel about those issues, rather than thinking about them independently and logically, and coming to their own conclusion regardless of "side."
This is one of the things which has lent to such out-of-control Confirmation Bias. We feel compelled to support "our side" and so glom onto any anecdotal (or contrived) evidence which supports "our side's" view. This has also resulted in the instant dismissal of information from one side or one side's news source as "disinformation" or "fake news."
To put it bluntly, this is insane.
"Why aren't we doing what Mr. Sparrow said we should do, with the cannons and all?"
"Because it was Mr. Sparrow who said it." -- Murtogg and Commodore Norrington, Pirates of the Caribbean
George Washington warned about this of Political Parties in his farewell address.
This tribalism is intensified by the tendency to promote Demigods and Boogeymen, a principle well-understood and exploited throughout history by both tyrants and sports teams.
Appeal #2: Remember that no one is truly your enemy unless they are actually and actively seeking to do you harm. Some are; most aren't.
Confirmation Bias is the tendency to seek out or infer information which appears to support a pre-existing conclusion. In a scientific experiment, this might mean latching on to evidence which supports your hypothesis, while failing to test against it, or worse, ignoring evidence counter to your hypothesis. In short, humans tend to believe what we want to believe. We want not only to be right, but we want to be accepted by our peers, which we feel will be in danger if we're "wrong."
This is rampant in today's political discourse. And let's face it, now, almost all discourse is political discourse, because absolutely everything has been politicized.
For years, people on the left have clung to the fantasy that President Trump is a Russian asset, and that Trump and Russia stole the 2016 election. Some maintained this even after the Mueller report showed there was no evidence supporting any of it. Some fewer even maintained that Trump was setting himself up to be a Dictator. In the minds of those who wanted to believe this, Trump's statements that the election was stolen were somehow evidence that he was setting the stage to seize military control of the country. If that was so, it was the worst coup in history with the President telling the "revolutionaries": "We have to have peace. You have to go home." It was always a fantasy.
Likewise, for years, QAnon has maintained that President Trump was playing 5-D chess and orchestrating a massive takedown of the corrupt Deep State. This amped up intensely since the election last year, with weekly claims that Trump was maneuvering the final pieces into position, and the takedown was right around the corner. In the minds of those who wanted to believe that this masterstroke to drain the swamp was imminent, every news report, every tidbit of information seemed to be evidence. It was always a fantasy. Even if he were President for the next four years, it's only the next four years. What then? You got it: We the People.
Appeal #3: Recognize that all humans have our own biases, borne of our own desires, and not one of us is immune from being misled, or flat out wrong. Always seek and be open to the truth and real evidence, and do not dismiss evidence which runs counter to your desires.
Ad Hominem Attacks
Ad Hominem arguments attack the person rather than the position. This can be subtle, such as attempting to discredit an argument by discrediting the speaker's character, "He's under investigation for such-and-such, so I don't care what he has to say about tax fairness." Or it can be more overt name-calling such as "libtards," "DemonRATS," "Nazis," or "Trump cultists."
I make a direct point not to call people names. When people approach me disrespectfully, I'll often be flippant or aggressive, and I have no compunction about calling someone's argument idiotic, but I hold back from calling people idiots, no matter how heated the discussion. Likewise, there are several people on the left who do speak with me respectfully, and I reciprocate. We have constructive, respectful discussions, even if we don't end up agreeing. Respect doesn't have to mean agreement, and that basis of respect makes all the difference in the world.
Appeal #4: Don't engage in insults or ad hominem attacks. Address the argument, not the person.
This should go without saying, but sadly it still must be said--especially to the media. I've said that this election was indeed stolen--by the media. If the media had been anywhere near honest, President Trump would have handily won re-election. But it's not just the media; it's rife among all levels of political operatives, and others.
In one of the most brazen attempts at dishonesty and manipulation I've seen since Jussie Smollett's hate crime race hoax, Carlos Rodriguez, former Communications Director for Lorenzo Sanchez, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat last year for the Texas House, signed up to speak at the Plano City Council meeting last week and called on me to resign. His basis for this was a dozen or so sentence fragments he strung together from pieces and posts I had written in the few weeks prior, so he could claim I had called for the kind of violence that occurred the Capitol on January 6, and that I supported it after it happened, despite my repeated warnings against it, and calls for peace and the rule of law.
Never mind that I had explicitly warned against something like that December 31st and January 2nd that something like the Capitol riot was poised to happen, and we had to do our best to avert it, and never mind that I denounced such lawlessness during and after the riot (several times), and called for all involved to be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law, he not only pretended that I called for, he cited sentence fragments from my article a couple of days later, about hope, which wasn't even about the Capitol riot (though I mentioned it), to claim that I condoned it.
Needless to say, I didn't resign.
This is just the most prominent and personal example I can speak about. It's happening with increasing frequency by all sorts of people, and it's always destructive.
Appeal #5: Be honest, especially with yourself. Commit to the truth.
Cancel the Cancel Culture
Constructive discussion requires discussion (duh). If we adhere to each of the appeals above, then we should be able to have that discussion. Dishonest claims that any support of President Trump, or even conservative opinions "can" incite violence have led to The Purge we are seeing where people, groups, and platforms are being erased from our society. Only explicit calls for violence actually constitute incitement to violence, and they should be addressed appropriately.
Achieving some measure of unity through constructive discussion requires more speech, not less. I, for one, don't want someone I don't trust to begin with to be the Ultimate Arbiter of Truth on my behalf. I'll exercise the right to think for myself, as should each of us, which requires we accept the existence of information and viewpoints we may not like and with which we may not agree.
Appeal #6: Respect the principle of Free Speech. Destroying it leads only to tyranny.
Recognize our Shared Values
If there is truly nothing remaining that unites us, then there truly is no hope. But I don't believe that's the case. America stands for Liberty, above all else, even if we haven't always lived up to our own standard. If we yet have a common belief in the following, then we can still achieve real unity.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" -- The Declaration of Independence
"We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." -- Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." -- Martin Luther King Jr.
"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." -- John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address
We are at a crossroads, as I warned about last spring, and no one can save us from ourselves but ourselves.
Appeal #7: Remember our shared values, and remember what's at stake:"If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.” -- Ronald Reagan