The election is over. Obama won; Romney was shellacked. The New York Times' Nate Silver has been showered with accolades and declared adept. Fox News' Dick Morris was pummeled with ridicule and labeled inept. The majority of my family members, self-proclaimed liberals, are both elated and relieved. My conservative friends and family are surprised, deflated and scared.
The electoral vote has been tallied; Obama: 332, Romney: 206. But we all know it's not over. This is a deeply divided country. Where do we go from here? It is readily apparent that many Americans are living in alternate and incompatible universes.
In 2012, eighty-four percent of our states voted just as they voted in 2008. The talking-heads blamed Romney's defeat and credited Obama's victory on: rural vs. urban, old vs. young, single women vs. marrieds, takers vs. makers, black vs. white vs. brown, the top one percent vs. food stamp recipients.
"Versus" was, and is the dominant theme of American politics. Opposing beliefs are so strident that talk of secession abounds. Incredibly this extreme action is being supported by seemingly credible politicians. http://paul.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2029:secession-are-we-free-to-go&catid=64:2012-texas-straight-talk&Itemid=69
The 2012 election did not take place in fifty states; it took place in just nine: Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado and Pennsylvania. Less than 20 percent of our states were bombarded with ads and/or visits by the candidates. Forty one states were simply taken for granted; they were simply ignored. Illinois or Hawaii citizens rarely saw Presidential ads; Obama and Romney visited them not for the purpose of earning their votes, but rather to garner cash for the purpose of cajoling swayable voters in those nine anointed states. Likewise, Mississippi and Alabama were ignored; their voting preferences were assumed. Not surprisingly, they voted overwhelmingly Republican. Why would they not? They never heard from the Dems.
Since four out of five states in election after election are considered irrelevant, the citizens of these deeply blue or red states are self-educated; they are political home-schoolers. They are introduced to and confronted with few new ideas. Rarely are they challenged to question their belief system. Views are reinforced by neighbors who share their political preferences, religious beliefs and prejudices. They may watch Fox, or MSNBC, but seldom both. They listen to either Rush Limbaugh or Ed Schultz, and confirm what they "learned" over a beer at the local bar, the church potluck, or while playing bridge.
The more Internet-savvy, younger Blues and Reds post tidbits from The Drudge Report or The Daily Kos. They self-select, share, and agree. The result: opinions harden, mistruths remain unchallenged, and our nation's divide becomes less bridgeable.
We read what we want to read, see what we want to see, and listen to what we want to hear. Is this dilemma insolvable? Pompously, I propose a solution. In the 1950's there was a well-intentioned but now fingernail-scraping-on -blackboard uncomfortable program called, "Take a Negro to Lunch Day." As repulsive as this now sounds, its intention was well-meaning. It was a crude attempt to facilitate communication between peoples of different life experiences for the purpose of bringing them together. I suggest a similar program, but with the more acceptable name, the I'll Show You Mine, If You Show Me Yours Program. I outline the program's steps below:
A. Find a person you can tolerate on a personal level, but with whom you have diametrically opposing political beliefs. Simply put, you consider him or her a political moron but a nice person and he or she feels the same about you.
B. Set aside one two hour session per week for four consecutive weeks when both parties can meet alternately in each other's living room, den or home theatre. Avoid conflicts with Monday Night Football, or Celebrity Apprentice.
C. At each session, the host will choose a politically charged show to view. The conservative host might choose Sean Hannity,and the progressive's choice could be Rachel Maddow. The host also gets to choose pork rinds or imported brie as a snack,
D. Watch the show together, unarmed, and in SILENCE. Following the show, discuss what you have seen and heard. Calmness and lack of violence would truly help.
Perhaps just perhaps, somebody might learn something.
One last word: It is my strongly held belief that truth rarely lies squarely in the center between the extremes… Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity may both be dramatic and strident, but one of them is more often factually correct. I leave that for you to decide when you and your friend agree to participate in I'll Show You Mine if You Show Me Yours.