“X group of people won’t change. X are evil. X must be stopped at all cost. #PoliticalTwitter”
Contra the hope and optimism trumpeted after the election of President Obama, the current mood of American politics (most visible on social media) is a disbelief in change. We believe that even with dialogue, debate, and pertinent evidence, people won’t change their minds about community issues or policies.
Instead, we assume if a person is wrong about an issue (abortion, tax policy, climate change, social justice, etc.), they are completely wrong and probably evil. Such a mindset exonerates us from having to make our case, therefore we can reduce people to their stances and promptly call them names, all while we feel good because we “did something” about an issue (which usually amounts to merely announcing where we stand and denouncing anyone who disagrees).
If we push this logic further, we get a justification for the use of force to inflict the decisions of a government body or political committee into people without input from those affected or open debate. The explosion of data and the mechanical way in which we increasingly approach policy has exasperated this problem. “These people are wrong and/or evil. They are irredeemably wrong because they are ignorant (probably willfully) and hateful. For the good of the citizen (and my own conscience), such and such policy must be implemented, regardless of what others think. Those who disagree with us must be silenced, ignored, or physically assaulted. #Solidarity (except for those idiots I disagree with).”
This mindset is antithetical to a belief in the common good and solidarity with our neighbors. We must respect our neighbors enough to listen to their (crazy or stupid) opinions and respond with the best argument for our position while addressing our neighbor’s concerns. Common good and common ground solutions aren’t going to fall from the sky or magically show up in the divided halls of the national congress. Such policies are going to have to be developed, honed, and articulated by those willing to put in the work for the common good, which is a long and mostly thankless job. We have to articulate these goals with respect and charity.
Paving a way for the common good in our politics is going to take time and heartache in trying to convert people to our views, but that is the true change we must believe in.