It’s been 10 days and I was hoping I could let this one go. Alas, here we are.
I was getting ready for work (a much easier process since giving up on makeup and fancy clothes somewhere around March 16, 2020) and listening to the morning news. The radio broadcast and one of the pop-ups on my phone alerted me that something seriously frustrating was on its way.
But before I get into the details, let me ask: have you ever been caught in the middle of two people you care about? And if so, how did you deal with it? Did you try to bring them back to some kind of peace? How well did that work?
I’m willing to take a bet. I bet that if you turned to one of the people and faulted their ego, their lies and – at least implicitly – their hypocrisy, you probably didn’t help resolve the matter.
Even if a year earlier you had gone to that person and pleaded for unity, dignity and respect, I’m willing to bet the memory of that plea is faint after you just finished blaming them for all that’s since gone wrong.
There probably aren’t many people willing to take the other side of that bet. And yet, it has been the course of action for President Biden and (let’s assume) the majority of his many advisors and party.
Don’t get me wrong. I do see the previous president’s words and (in)actions as having incited a mob attack on both individuals and democracy in January 2021. And I was pleased to hear the incoming president express hope for “unity” no less than 11 times in his inaugural speech later that month.
But here we are, a year later and Biden many points down in the polls, and this man who called for unity is now seen to be picking a fight. I say “seen to be” because while he did cast blame 10 days ago, that focus was magnified by the media. (If you read the transcript of the actual 2022 speech it’s not nearly as finger-pointing as the headlines and phone alerts made it sound.)
At this point, you may be wondering why a Canadian is letting her morning routine be thrown off by a politician in another country. Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to ignore our neighbour sometimes, their bad habits seem to drift northward. And as I look at how the pandemic has already deepened the polarization and anger of many Canadians, I can’t help but feel fear and the need to point out…we deserve better. We as Canadians deserve better, and even those bald-eagle-loving, USA-chanting, think-Canadians-live-in-igloos to the south deserve better.
But guess what? If you agree that we deserve better, it’s up to each of us to do better. Sure, the influence of a big-name politician is greater than mine. (Sadly, I doubt Joe Biden is reading this blog.) But your influence in your own circles is serious business. And whether those circles include your neighbours, your coworkers, the other parents on your kid’s hockey team, or any other group, I ask: does it help to cast blame? Or would you rather roll your eyes and say, “That John…I don’t agree with him, but I’m so grateful he shovels my sidewalk on occasion and seems like he’s trying to be a good dad. Hi John!”
I am so incredibly tired of the idea that I should label anyone with an opposing view as a “bad” person. I’m tired of worrying that if I ask a well-intentioned but ignorant question that it might get me labelled as a bad person. I’m also tired of the sensational coverage and headlines that seem to uphold these ideas and ways of thinking.
Yes, I do understand that my dumb questions or my neighbour/uncle/coworker’s opposing views are very different than storming a government building and killing people. But guess what? I don’t believe it’s an exaggeration to say that over time, our reactions to one can eventually lead to the other.
So, before we go and call someone stupid/wrong/ego-driven/evil, can we commit to thinking about what kind of world we want to live in? And if the other person is someone we might want to unite with at other times of our lives or for other principles (like democracy), maybe there’s a different way to disagree with them – especially for those of us starting these debates from pretty comfortable positions.