I just came back from a 20 day camping tour of the South Eastern US. During this time I was mostly cut off from the news, spent very little time on FaceBook, and almost completely dropped Twitter. At the same time I spoke with dozens, if not a hundred or more people in the places I visited and the sites I saw.
I came back to a world of people who have decided to cut off one group or another based on their politics. John Pavlovits just put out a blog post where he declares that ~40% of the American electorate is just wrong. A friend posted an honest question on FaceBook last night asking how to forget, or even if she should forget, that people in her life actively support Trump.
Similarly, I had a conversation with another friend who told me she wasn’t sure she’d ever want to set foot in the South ever again, and that I wasn’t there long enough to get beyond the “nice to your face” part of Southern hospitality.
And on and on.
So I ask you: when did we become so certain that we know what is in the hearts of our neighbors? When did we become so smart as to know that their behavior was founded in hatred? And when did we realize that our opinions were rock-solid, that our bases for evaluation were correct?
I’m very sad today. I want my fellow citizens to see the good in each other. I know that my friends who don’t want to go south of Pennsylvania have sterling hearts that wish only good for everyone. My friends who are struggling with how to engage and love their family members who vote the other side of the aisle really do want everyone to be successful and to thrive.
And yet…and yet…they seem so certain.
If the people who believe otherwise were less certain or less convincing, perhaps I would agree with them. Perhaps if there were real and concrete evidence, like an ever-growing body of reinforcing experiments without contradiction, I could feel as certain as I do about physics, chemistry, or biology.
But unlike the sciences, where there is ambiguous data, we aren’t very good at stepping back and saying “I’m not sure.”
It’s like we’re drawing constellations. If I use these stars but not those I see a dragon or with those but not these it’s a swan. If I look at it from the East it’s a bull, from the West, it’s a lion.
What if it’s just stars?