Showing posts with label Republicans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Republicans. Show all posts

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Polarization is a Choice

 A photo of the Beşiktaş Forum,
a nightly neighborhood discussion
happening in my neighborhood park
and twenty other parks throughout Istanbul
where citizens discuss the future of the protests
and the future of their country.
I feel deeply lucky to have experienced the Turkish protests and to watch citizen engagement on a level never before experienced in Turkey. I plan to write about the experience, but frankly, it has been so interesting, I couldn't even tear myself away from watching it long enough to write about it. It makes me appreciate that real journalists get that done and do it on deadline too.

As an expat, I am constantly reflecting on how events in the country I am living in are related to the events from my country of origin. One of the most astounding experiences of the whole Gezi Park protests has been the level of polarization (which I wrote about here in my last post).

How polarized has it been? So polarized that the Turkish government talks about bringing in the military to restore order. Citizens discuss the possibility that there could be a civil war. I thought that I had experienced polarization in America during George W. Bush's Presidency, but this makes the Bush Presidency look like child's play. Even the clothes are different, as if each team has a uniform.

Shockingly, it wasn't until I watched this play out among the Turks that it occurred to me that polarization is a choice. When the American people were polarized, we allowed ourselves to be manipulated into doing that. We didn't have to buy that, but we did. We chose to respond to manipulative language and to allow ourselves to demonize our fellow citizens, even though we know in our hearts that what makes our country great is the range of contributions from everyone.

How boring and "trailing edge" Americans must have been during that period. One constant verbal or online sledgehammer to each other for eight years. It's so unproductive and dehumanizing. As we, the American people, beat up on each other by choosing polarized news sources and polarized web sites, other countries have gotten on with business while we spent our billions indulging in a war in Iraq America wishes it could forget. In a globalized world, the country that chooses to be divided, falls behind.

If I could offer advice to my Turkish friends based on my eight years of living through the George W. Bush presidency it would be to understand that polarizing language is manipulative language. If you buy into it, you're allowing yourself to be manipulated. Take care of your personal relationships, invite your most opposite philosophically-different friend over for dinner and break bread together. Just because dialogue doesn't occur at your highest level, doesn't mean dialogue can't occur at the citizen level.
(the meal where Muslims break their fast
after a day of no food or water)
Official White House Photo
by Chuck Kennedy
Breaking bread together is such a fundamental practice. That's why it means so much to me to see my President celebrate Ramadan or Diwali or Passover. During that meal time, my President is contemplating and learning from someone who is different than him. He is respecting and celebrating their traditions. He is honoring them. Is there any reason we, the people who live all over the world, can't do that too?

I read recently that members of the American Congress are so polarized, and there is so much money at stake in each decision, that they no longer undertake this practice of breaking bread with their opposite. It shows. Congressional approval ratings hover around 10% and they famously work to keep the status quo rather than move the country forward.

Polarization is a choice. I'm no longer going to buy it. How about you?

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Shoved outside the Republican tent

It's getting really ugly in the American election.

I come from a loooong line of Republicans; both of my parents were Republican elected officials and I served as the county chairman for a Republican candidate for President in the Iowa caucuses and the presidential election during the 1990s.

This season, I have been told repeatedly that I don't fit the profile of the people Republicans "approve of" to be pro-American and support their candidate. I"m not from a small town, I'm not from what they consider a "pro-American" part of the country, and this morning on CNN GLOBAL television, there was a Republican pastor attacking the 1.2 million members of my faith, the United Church of Christ, as not "biblical" or "Christian enough" because the denomination supports gay marriage (really, news to me? I've never heard it discussed even once in my church). The reason he singled out my denomination is cause it's the same denomination as Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's former pastor.

I can't tell you what it feels like to hear your faith attacked as not "good enough." It's hate speech. And if he would take a look at our congregations, he would see that there's probably a ton of potential Republican voters there. Our congregations actually skew older which is the natural demographic to support the Republican platform. Why alienate us?

I watched the VP debate with six people, who discovered when we all started chatting about our political history, had all left the Republican party cause we no longer felt welcome. Two of them were once elected Republicans. This is exactly what Colin Powell described as the "narrowing" of the party. We have literally been shoved out of the tent.

It reminds me of that poem written by Pastor Martin Niemöller:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

I hope when this election is over, the far right will see that the broad middle are not evil people. We're just people that think everyone in America deserves a voice, regardless of their faith, not just our own folks.
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