A friend was asking me the other day what I write about, and I said amongst other things I like writing about politics. Only I haven't done that in ages. I told him there was too much going on and it felt too big to process. He suggested I write about that.
I bet I'm not the only one feeling like politics in both the UK and US right now is some kind of impossible maze. With so much information and opinion flying around, my brain is all lit up like a Christmas tree, but I don't know where to go. It's hard enough just trying to sift what's true from what isn't, let alone comprehend the implications or what a balanced view would look like.
I say balanced view because at the moment that's all I'm aiming for - I feel like the world is off balance. I'm not a come down in the middle kind of person, but I think it's important to inform our views with both (or many) sides of an argument. If we choose to only look from one perspective, we can't see the whole picture, and we can't respond accordingly.
It seems lately like many people have lost the art of debate, and can't accept that anyone who holds a different opinion to them could be right on any level. I've seen so much hate and aggression expressed, even from people I considered to be open-minded. Emotions run high when our expectations of society are disappointed, when our worldview is challenged.
But why should we be afraid of a different point of view? Are we so unsure of our own that we fear we'll be brainwashed? Are we so arrogant that we can't admit we may be wrong on any point? Or are we actually intolerant to the point of failing to see any nuances in an argument, simplifying a wide spectrum of debate by labelling the opposition, calling names in playground fashion?
When everyone feels they have the moral high ground, it takes an act of humility to initiate meeting in the middle to talk. But if that doesn't happen, we remain warring camps with little to no hope of a peaceable outcome.
Democratic politics has for centuries functioned on a binary, oppositional system. It's partly because of this that facts and opinions are readily exaggerated in order to emphasise difference, because difference has become the cornerstone of political identity.
Arguably that's a better system than a dictatorship or some other scenario in which there is only one accepted way of doing things, and it can contribute to balance. But the divisions it creates seep into the fabric of society, and without debate, with more fear than understanding, do we expect that we will become better at relating to one another, or worse?