I’ve had only one frank conversation with people who disagree with me about whether or not to get vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus. Is this surprising? It should be. It’s one of the most pressing issues of the day that carries potentially profound consequences. Yet, these days, it is difficult to broach such subjects–even with close friends–when you know you are starting at supposedly opposite viewpoints.
Let us first be grateful that we live in a society in which we are permitted to disagree and dissent against the prevailing thinking, generally without reasonable fear of being penalized simply for holding unpopular beliefs. Not to say that with the rise of “cancel culture” and the corporate censorship state that these freedoms are not under attack.
I’ve seen probably a thousand or more articles and books that lament our present-day United States population’s growing ineffectiveness at having fruitful discourse. We devolve into arguing as two four year-olds might, complete with name-calling, instead of even attempting to engage in rational debate. We lead with our hearts and not our heads. This is dangerous, and the entire world is suffering for it. The “us versus them” mentality we have adopted inhibits progress and reinforces petty divisions.
The corporate media has seized on this drama created by those who disagree failing to articulate and failing to try to understand one another as a means of–you guessed it–making even more money. The corporation is designed with one purpose intended, and as institutions, many have proven excellent at fulfilling this goal and generating profit for the investor class and income for executives.
But I digress. I actually got through that uncomfortable conversation with my friends, thanks in large part to their patience with my callous assertions, but also due to my own efforts to open my mind–just a hair’s width and just for a moment–and really listen to the reasoning behind their opinion and subsequent action. Luckily, I remembered that I was among friends. This was key–the recognition that I was going to continue to live alongside them and people who hold their beliefs, and that no amount of shouting or chest-pounding on the part of me or my ideological allies would change that fact. This is what is fundamentally wrong with the predominant media of discourse in this country, the lack of thinking as a community. When we otherize each other–sometimes to disgusting extent–we destroy our greatest asset in all of our common struggles. We damage our ability to work together to overcome our problems.
I thought to myself, but luckily did not verbalize, What in God’s name made you so ignorant about this subject? Is it your church? Is it the corrupt and sensationalist media? Is it a mistrust of the elites? However, I came to realize through the dialogue that perhaps my beliefs on the matter were not exactly crafted of stone and mortar either. I had allowed my emotions and a misguided sense of a smaller, ideological community to obscure and shape my thinking. I am not a liberal first. I am not a Boulderite first. I am not even a Coloradoan first. I am first a citizen of the United States (not to criticize residents, just being precise). It took me spending a couple of weeks out-of-state with the intention of moving semi-permanently to the area for me to recognize and begin to understand my biases as not just existing, but also posing large problems for me–even if the problems were only to manifest between my two ears.
I have been guilty of something that I have resented that I have seen in others–closed-mindedness and increasing the superficial and artificial things that would divide us all as people trying to survive and thrive both here, in America, and on planet Earth at large. Yet, I refuse to “beat myself up” over it–that would be destructive as well. Instead, I’m going to try to carry that attitude–of recognizing that me and all of my beliefs (no matter how righteous) are but an infinitesimal particle of the vast and wonderful nebula that is life as we know it.
That’s not to say I’m not going to argue for what I believe is best for our community, but rather that I will do so with the knowledge an understanding that, for better and not for worse, we are all in this together. The divisions that separate us are insignificant when compared to the commonalities that unite us. And this, my friends, is a blessing we must not take for granted.
My friends, we are at war. The culture war divides and consumes us. But in order to win that war, (hopefully we can do so without any more proverbial or literal shots being fired) we must realize that our true enemy is not those who we feel divided from because of their different beliefs, but rather the division itself. Division encourages illegitimate hierarchy (is there any other kind?) and what has been recognized as the cardinal sin, pride. It is humility that allowed me to see the error of my ways. Humility means seeing things as they truly are, as well as endeavoring not to speak in definitive or pejorative terms. I am grateful for this epiphany that the universe has granted me today, and because of that it is my duty to share it as widely as I can. So remember, friends, the next time you think to yourself, How can anyone think that way? That the person you cannot imagine is acting in good faith likely is doing so for the community in which they identify themselves as a part of. It is all of our duties to expand rather than constrict the size of these imaginary communities closer to reality. Open your minds and temper the passions of your hearts when analyzing opposing views. We will all be better off for it.