In times of crisis we are faced with a choice: walk together or walk alone. Our nation has sadly chosen the second option. Instead of focusing on what we have in common we have allowed our individual differences to divide us so severely that recent atrocious events, such as the Las Vegas shooting, have only furthered the divide. At a time that should be spent offering condolences we point fingers. From the left, you have people screaming for increased gun control. On the right, many point fingers at Islam as the source of this man’s actions. Both sides have missed the big picture entirely. Americans, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation died in the recent attack. Death knows no discrimination, so why should we?
We have allowed superficial issues to draw attention away from the very thing that unifies us: we are all Americans and most importantly all humans. The hatred that has festered in our hearts will only give way to a divided nation, one that is almost unrecognizable.
To avoid this, we must learn how to listen to one another. To truly listen takes more than a pair of working ears; it takes patience, empathy, and a fundamental understanding that we are more than our opinions. We are under the false notion that we are the sum of opinions and nothing more. This mentality has caused us to fight for our perspective so feverishly that any view that is not in line with our own is inherently wrong. In reality, there is often a compromise beneath the rubble of tweets and facebook rants.
In the words of Aristotle, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. No harm will come from listening to the opposition, you will not melt like the wicked witch of the west, I promise.
Once we have learned to listen, discussion is the only option to mending the self inflicted wounds we have brought upon this nation. These discussions begin in a place of respect. We must reinforce the idea that you can respect and admire a person while simultaneously disagreeing with them. For example, I strongly disagree with the views of Bernie Sanders but I respect his dedication and passion. Every person brings a new and valid perspective to the discussion, regardless of their views. It is not an “us versus them”, it should always be a “we the people” mindset.
I hold the belief that reality is almost entirely dependent on perception. If we focus on what divides us that is all we will see. On the contrary, if we focus on our common ground the perception of our country shifts to that of a unified nation.