When I was growing up, right and left indicated which shoe to put on which foot. And red and blue were the primary colors of our flag. While different, they were not approached as opposites, in a confrontational manner. Today, right and left designate political leanings. Red and blue identify a state as Democrat or Republican. Then, of course, there is that Senate and Congressional ‘aisle’ that no one, yet everyone, wants to cross. We have created so many divisions that have increased our ignorance and intolerance. We tend to listen and read only those who share our beliefs and goals. We are continuously the choir listening to the preacher. When we should be reading, watching and paying attention to all sides. Ignoring only leads to ignorance. If you are a Liberal, it might be tough to listen to Limbaugh and O’Reilly. Conservatives may have a hard time watching Maddow and Oberman. But it is essential. Wherever you lean, go where the other side goes. Observe their rallies. Learn what they are teaching. Listen to their radio shows. Watch them on television. Read their blogs. “Fore warned is fore armed.” As you use the internet, make it a habit to check at least three sites before forming decisions about an issue. Knowledge is power. And as we have our passionate arguments and disagreements in barber shops, hair salons, in hall ways, or party stores, it is necessary that we respectfully share our [fact-based] ideas and thoughts with all sides.
Much of the rhetoric, on both sides, stems from the lack of complete information. In today’s fast paced, 24 hour news environment, everyone lives on sound bites. There is no effort spent in discovering the full story – the whole truth. So many issues are addressed with words taken out of context, or without fact checking. Ron Paul continues to talk about Planned Parenthood’s greatest mission being that of performing abortions. This has been proven not to be the case. The testimony by the Georgetown University student, about the need for her school’s medical insurance to cover female birth control, has been discussed ad nauseum, with the basis of those dialogues being nowhere near the real issue. Pundits keep saying she wants tax payers to pay for her contraception. This has nothing to do with taxes. It has everything to do with insurance companies covering female birth control just as they do vasectomies and Viagra, and recognizing that contraception is used in treating numerous female health issues, beyond birth control. Another concern is the concept of global warming being a hoax. You don’t have to read “Scientific America” to know that this is a very real phenomenon. Neil DeGrasse Tyson (cool African-American Astrophysicist) says, “If you don’t believe what the humans are saying, just watch the animals and the change in their migration patterns.” Also, let us not forget Newt Gingrich stating the lack of need for good public education, and that poor children should just become janitors and laborers, because they have no role models to teach them a good work ethic. Whether we like it or not, free speech gives voice to all opinions, and is a tenet of our foundation. We all have a right to be heard.
And it is also all right to disagree with the President. He is not perfect. It is how we choose to display that disagreement that determines whether or not we are heard. Some have been downright disrespectful, calling him a snob and a liar. There is a reverence that comes with the office of President that should be respected no matter who holds the position. That respect includes letting him know when we think he is wrong, as well as when we think he is right.
We should teach our children the correct foot on which to place their shoes. They should be shown how to color our beautiful flag. There should be no aisles in the classroom. And if aisles are necessary, it is essential that there is representation from a diverse group on all sides. If we don’t purport these divisions, maybe we can help mold a generation that sits together and sees only one flag moving forward, with tolerance and respect for all ideas.
Walker is a native Detroiter, vocal involved community advocate and entrepreneur. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org