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Longing for a more tolerable political culture

You’re too liberal, they say, pointing to a syndicated column on one of our papers’ editorial pages.

You’re too conservative, they say, pointing to a syndicated column on one of our papers’ editorial pages, perhaps on a different day.

It’s hard to win the hearts and minds of everyone when leading a newspaper. To be honest, while we always strive to reflect and engage our community, we are smart enough not to try.

Too this or too that. I’ve never been more personally frustrated with our political landscape, which I feel is currently designed to push as many people to the far walls of a giant room.

On one side, a herd of elephants clinging to the wall so to be as far away from the donkeys, clinging equally to the opposite wall. The middle, once a land of all types, is designed to look strangely barren.

Our polarized political culture makes many feel like they have to cling to the extreme wall of one or the other. Those who decide to not conform to the far wall of either side are few and far between and can feel like sitting ducks, like a couple of elementary students who have stumbled into a high school dodgeball game.

To say I’m concerned about this trend is an understatement. I’m the first to admit I am no political expert — I took a few political science classes in college and being a news guy, I try to stay in the know. But national politics is not my passion, probably exactly the opposite. Which is why I am so frustrated.

I’ve always looked at political issues or political candidates as individual choices. This policy makes sense, so I think I’ll support it. That policy also makes sense, so I also think I’ll support it.

Wait!!

That policy’s stance belongs to a different political party than this policy’s stance.

What should I do?

I believe the modern political culture teaches us to draw a line in the sand, and pick one side. Even if I like that policy, I’ve decided to support the party that contains this policy. Eventually, choosing a side will force me into echo chambers with other members of that party. In time, choosing a side will lead me into not even being able to have productive conversation with the other side, forget the fact that I once supported that policy.

If you’ve chosen one side, you best support that side’s entire platform, even if you have an exception with certain issues.

While I remain grounded in my own personal morals and beliefs, I like to look at political candidates and issues like the cereal aisle at the local grocery store. Why can’t I buy both a Kellogg’s and General Mills brand of cereal?

Thinking this way has led me to looking at issues and races from both sides. It could be a character flaw, but I rarely see in black and white. I try to understand where the other side is coming from. I feel that if at that point I disagree, looking into the other side only strengthens my belief.

I am a believer of conversation, discourse and embracing people who are different from myself. Again, I feel that strengthens what I believe in.

I’m not perfect and I’m sure that the strong winds of politics have swept me to one of the walls more often than I could imagine.

But I do think that if more people tried to extend their arms out toward their political opponents rather than shake their first at them, we would take steps toward a more tolerable political culture.

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