Team Players

Sports are extremely important in the United States. School and intramural teams provide entertainment, activity for restless kids and a place for the community to gather. Professional sports is big business.

Many Americans are such great fans of sports that they want to live their political lives using the same framework. This leads to bumper stickers, t-shirts and infinite other bits of Made-in-China paraphernalia lauding one team or the other: Democrat or Republican.

Good thinking doesn’t split itself in two like that.

In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a distinct smugness among my liberal friends. I’ve even gotten into trouble voicing this observation; one of my friends eyed me cautiously for an hour afterward, in case I had surreptitiously become a fascist.

I recently attended a public event in Portland celebrating a national environmental magazine. The host observed that at the recent Republican Party convention, the words “environment” and “nature” did not come up in analyses of the speeches. He followed this fact with the assertion that no Republicans care about the environment.

I did not hear even a murmur of surprise. Imagine how you’d feel if you were a Republican in the audience, someone who supports the magazine and chose to be there. Happily, one of the featured guests spoke of knowing some conservative women in rural Oregon.

“I disagree that they don’t care about the environment,” she said, facing down her host with an anecdote to illustrate the Eastern Oregonians’ warmth and generosity. “They just think about it differently.” I applauded loudly, ignoring the stares.

The issue strikes a chord with me because this “Us Versus Them” mentality is so pervasive, and so toxic. It might be fun to approach politics as one would a football rivalry, but it’s exclusionary and it’s damaging.

When the event host made his remark about the Republicans, he exuded confidence that everyone in the room was in agreement. I’ve seen this happen at parties, and I’ve seen it at work. It reminds me of what my friends who are people of color have described they experience in a room full of white people: things and ideas presented that are simply accepted as “normal,” which practice is actually, if unconsciously, racist.

People who have liberal views are not inherently better than those who have conservative ones. It seems elementary for me to say it, but conservatives love their children just as much as liberals do. They love the Earth. We all want more or less the same things; we just have different ideas about how to get there. To suggest that conservatives are Bad People is to be exactly as closed-minded.

So please, my liberal friends, please continue to think your thoughts. Continue to volunteer in your communities. Continue to talk to others about tricky issues. But please stop thinking your views are superior. More importantly, stop thinking you are superior.

Same goes for conservatives, of course. We are all in this together.

Instead, reach out to someone who is different from you and build a friendship, and then build on that trust to explore why s/he thinks what s/he thinks. Learn that person’s heart. Living in a liberal bubble is just as unhelpful as the worst conservative opinion imaginable, and vice versa.

I fully support debating issues. But being on one “team” and sniping at the other is, at the very least, bad sportsmanship.

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6 thoughts on “Team Players

  1. Nancy Fine says:

    I just let out a joyful “Yip!” way out here in on the edge of the Great Basin where only the cows were close enough to notice; they stopped chewing their cud and gawked at me. I love the opportunity to share mindsets, shake the screen and have wonderfully inspired, creative, better-than-either-of-us-alone-could-have-conjured-up solutions filter through. We cannot have that outcome if we are unwilling to hear the other guy or gal, conservative, liberal or in-between, when they sit at the table with us, take off their hat–whatever the shape–and toss things around looking for a fix for the muddled-up mess du jour. Open conviction–holding beliefs, but listening intently for new information–seems to have gone out of style. Let’s fool them all and bring it back. Goodness knows, we all need to work on releasing the ugly fingers gridlock has wrapped tight on the neck of our great land. I believe it begins with you and me. Here’s to when we meet and talk issues, with a new resolve, listening carefully. I know we’ll all learn something. Kristy, I admire your courage as you speak the truth. I’m inspired.

  2. ed says:

    I’ll just say, “yes”. But then I’ll add the exclamation mark so you can hear me . Yes !

  3. Monica Burke says:

    What you describe is the reason I had to move the hell away from Portland. My new neighbors in rural NY are rednecks and a baptist pastor and the dose of reality is refreshing. It’s not always easy but it’s keeping me sharp in the dialogue category. I appreciate your honesty – always have!

  4. Monica Burke says:

    I should add, “self-described” rednecks for all those politically correct folks out there who think I might be name calling.

  5. […] Team Players. One of my few purely “Kristy Spouts Off” posts, about our polarized politics. […]

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