Want to hear a secret?
Seriously. I have some information for you. I didn't really think it was that big of a secret, to be honest with you, but apparently it really is. You ready? OK, here we go.
Republicans aren't racists, and Democrats aren't un-American.
Boom. That's it. Thank you, one and all, for coming out, and don't forget to tip your waitress.
Look, some Republicans are racists. So are some Democrats, by the way. And some Democrats do come off as pretty darn un-American. But so do some Republicans, if we're being honest. The fact of the matter is that both Republicans and Democrats are human beings, and some human beings are good people with pure intentions, and some human beings are soulless dirtbags — regardless of their political affiliations.
That doesn't stop with just political affiliations, by the way. I've known really good people who have made really stupid decisions and found themselves in jail, and I've known some people who portray themselves as devout Christians who I wouldn't trust to babysit my daughter's kitten — and this is a kitten that relishes licking my head at 4 a.m. every morning.
So, that says something.
It's easy to stereotype people, be it by their political affiliation, gender, race, religion, socio-economic status or profession. It's also lazy and counter-productive.
Wanting enhanced border security does not equate to being a racist as much as it equates to someone wanting enhanced border security. On the flip side, wanting to allow more people a legal path to immigration does not mean that someone wants to open the proverbial flood gates and eliminate any vetting of newcomers — it means a person wants to allow more people a legal path to immigration.
We tend to demonize those we disagree with, be it over sports, politics, religion or what have you.
I remember being a huge Magic Johnson fan as a youth, and as such, I would openly argue with my friends that Larry Bird was overrated, one-dimensional and not on Johnson's level. As Bird got older and injuries began to take a toll on him, I remember feeling sad that he was no longer able to provide the same competition for Magic, and that my stubborness caused me to really appreciate him for what he was while he was still in his prime.
Of course, that's an example of me missing out on something I would have enjoyed if I wouldn't have been so pig-headed. Sometimes, we close our minds to ideas or actions that we will never agree with, or never embrace. And that's also not always a good thing.
We don't have to agree with everything that people suggest or argue, but we should listen. If we understand why someone feels the way they do, or what that person would hope to accomplish with an idea or suggestion, we might very well find more common ground between us, or learn about new problems we didn't really knew existed.
Most of us just want a better future for our kids, a roof over our heads and a hot meal on our tables. We want to feel safe at night, and not lose our children to drugs, violence or war. We want the chance to be great, or to change the paths of our lives through hard work. We want the freedoms we are supposed to be guaranteed in this amazing experiment of a country we have, and we want nothing to stand in the way of future generations improving on what has already been started here.
But we also want “to be right.” We cling to media sources who agree with our ways of thinking, and many of those media sources pander to that partisanship by promoting opinion-givers who provoke and attack, as opposed to offering information that would require us to think on our own.
So, how do we get ourselves out of this bashing cycle that has clobbered us into division and distrust?
I'm not exactly sure what the answer is. Our elected officials are supposed to be our leaders, but those in Washington appear more interested in their next elections than anything else, and provoking the opposite side is a way to fire up their backers.
I honestly believe it's up to the media to take back responsibility in providing people balanced information, and to earn back the public trust in the process. We must be the arbiters of fairness, and not the sources of disdain and misinformation.
It's a different world today than it was when Walter Cronkite was the voice of America. People want their news on demand, 24-7, and to fill that void, media sources turn to opinion. And opinion is where we can get in trouble.
We live in an amazing nation, filled with bright minds, generous hearts and determined individuals. It's all right there in front of us to be truly great, and a shining light for the rest of the world. We just have to stop attacking each other first.