Respect and self-reflection are the only ways to improve the state of our nation.
By Bob Crawford
I would see it every day on my Twitter feed.
It didn’t take much, maybe a snarky tweet at Trump’s expense, and BAM!: an assorted list of the right wing’s greatest hits about Hillary appears. By now we all know this refrain by heart: email server, Benghazi, Bill’s infidelities, and so on.
On the morning of November 9, 2016, I awoke to find a world turned upside down.
“How could you?” I’d say to my Christian friends who voted for him. “He goes against everything Jesus teaches us.”
They usually replied with lines like, “He’s better than Hillary,” or “Look at the way Bill has treated women.”
It took me about a week to work through my seething anger and realize that we weren’t talking to each other. Instead, we were talking past each other. We weren’t responding, but reacting.
If you default to, “We are all going to die!” every time you read one of Donald Trump’s tweets, then I imagine recent events have you hopeful that our seemingly broken institutions might be strong enough to survive old forty-five.
But even if Trump is brought down by his own incompetence, I’d argue any vindication you feel will be short lived. Democrats will likely gloat and overplay their hand, while Trump's supporters will grow more embittered, leaving our nation no closer to unification.
So how do we learn to speak to one another again? How do we learn to listen to the person sitting across the table?
We are a nation of laws. To move forward, we need ground rules for civil, political discussions that can heal our broken country.
My co-host Ben Sawyer recently tweeted the following: “Tell me why you support Trump without a) mentioning another politician or b) using a cliché.”
If you justify voting for Trump, despite his immorality, you cannot bring up Bill Clinton. This is President Trump, not Candidate Trump, so the time for comparison is over. As with Presidents who came before him, Donald Trump must stand or fall on his own merits.
Kutter Callaway, a Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, says there are four things we should all keep in mind when having a conversation with anyone with which we disagree:
1. Always listen to what the other person is saying. Even if you do not agree with them, give them the time and space to freely express their side of the issue.
2. Affirm something about the other person’s point of view. Tell them they make a good point or an interesting argument.
3. Bear witness to the complexity of every issue. Arguing politics is tricky. We are all trying to make the best points, but the truth is each of us only has so much of the information available to us with which to form an opinion.
4. Confess that you may be wrong. As a Christian, I believe that we are all sinners and we all fall short, way short, of perfection. Therefore, I do not know everything and I may ultimately be wrong.
At this moment in our history, amid such great polarization and division, maybe we should not be trying to tear down the other person to win an argument. Perhaps the best way to bring us all together as a country would be to recognize that America has always been a space large enough to handle disagreements and discord.
Twitter is now the marketplace of ideas and one of the preferred platforms for expressing them. We must hope that as philosophies, speculations, and accusations rise and fall, the views that emerge will help build upon this grand experiment of creating a more perfect union.
If our only form of communication is through the same tired arguments, our nation is unlikely to find the true healing it needs.