This Common Ground Examiner space is all about focusing on the many more things people on the left and right in this country have in common than what they disagree on. I can't think of a more perfect example than the social event we attended last night.
We were in Colorado Springs for a wedding reception. My wife, Judy, is a friend of the bride. I knew neither the bride nor the groom, nor anyone else at the reception except a couple people who are mutual friends of both the bride and my wife.
In case you're unaware, Colorado Springs in the last few decades has become the mecca of the religious right. It is home to Focus on the Family and not a few other religious right organizations. It would be safe to say the crowd was a solid sample of the Colorado Springs populace.
It would also be safe to say that my wife is a liberal. My own leanings are more centrist with a libertarian bent.
What was remarkable in what we were witnessing was the completely unremarkable nature of the whole event. These were a bunch of people who were here to celebrate a wedding and that celebration was taking the form of a party. And lest anyone think that conservatives don't know how to cut loose when the occasion calls for it, let me put those misconceptions to rest. This was a party!
Struck by this, Judy made the remark that "This is what happens when people with 'family values' drink some wine."
Let me hasten to say, in case anyone reading this wants to immediately take that in some negative connotation, that there was no negative connotation connected to her saying it. Judy is the most generous, caring person I've ever known and her statement was essentially saying, "They're just like anyone else. They're just people."
That remark has really stuck with me. It seems to me to get straight to the core of the whole left-right dynamic.
I don't watch television. I do, however, get exposed to television, usually at the gym. I spend time on both the treadmill and the stationary bicycle and there are television screens in front of me. Some are set to Fox News and some are set to MSNBC, as well as sports channels, of course. Inevitably I pay at least some attention to the news channels. Plus, I get a lot more exposure to political arguments on the Web.
What disturbs me the most about what I see is the difference in how the two sides seem to perceive each other. On the left, the more derogatory of the speakers tend to refer to those on the right as "wing-nuts." That is, they have the opinion that someone who holds these beliefs must have something of a mental deficiency because no sane person could believe such clap-trap.
On the right, however, it's an entirely different attitude. The hate-heads on Fox and so many of the right-wingers on the Web seem to want you to believe that those on the left are not just people with a different opinion, they are people who are consciously, actively seeking to destroy this country and everything it stands for. They are evil, pure and simple. The Bill O'Reillys and Glenn Becks of the world seem to want you to believe that Barack Obama goes to bed each night pondering just what he can do tomorrow to tear this country down just a little more.
To my mind, those are huge differences. One says "these guys are just clueless" while the other says "you are Satan, and we must seek to destroy you if we possibly can."
Then I think about my wife, who loves this country but wants to make it even better, loves her kids more than anything in the world and wants only the best for them, and wishes no harm to anyone, anywhere. And I think about all those very nice people we were with last night who--unless you bring up politics or religion--are just like us. People who love their kids, love their country, and want only the best for them all.
And that's where it gets so troubling. There was a time in my lifetime when the Republicans didn't believe that to work with the Democrats to do good things for this country was apostasy. But how can you accomplish anything good working with the devil incarnate? And maybe the next time the Republicans are in power the Democrats will act the same way. And they will be just as wrong.
We're all just people. Why is it so hard to believe that someone who disagrees with us is not therefore evil?