Yesterday, I decided to conduct an experiment any mad scientist would be proud of – on my commute to and from work I listened to both conservative and progressive radio, switching between the two about every 15 minutes. I wanted to hear both views of Tuesday night's presidential debate.
My experiment's conclusion? I needed two Tylenol and sleep when I got home.
From listening to progressive and conservative radio, an alien – let's say it's ALF – would think America was trying to choose between Dracula and the Creature from the Black Lagoon for U.S. president. "Mitt Romney wants to suck all the blood out of your body!" "Barack Obama is an aquatic MuslimCommie and has gills!"
Oh, so the headache. Just on and on and on about how the pair of them are seeking to destroy the U.S. through taxes, Mormon magic or a diabolical combination of the two.
Let's get something straight. Both Romney and Obama are earnest men who want to do what they believe is best for America. The Bushes were that way. Bill Clinton was that way. Sure, they all have different ideas about what's best for America, but probably not as different as you might think. Listen to a Green Party or Libertarian Party candidate speak for 15 minutes and you'll begin to see just how similar Democrats and Republicans really are.
But rather than using our similarities to bring everyone together, we've instead focused on using our differences to drive ourselves apart. It's easy to slip into a fan-based mentality when watching the debates or listening to the candidates speak. I, too, am guilty of this. Politicians, however, take their cues from us. When Americans are starkly divided, politicians are, as well. When we show that we are willing to come together to move forward, though, politicians will join in. As loathe as we might be to admit it, politicians are a reflection of those they represent.
So, support who you want. Don't worry so much about those who support others. And come Nov. 6, either Obama will be re-elected or we'll have a new president in Romney. But no matter who is in the White House, it's time to start coming together as a nation again. Sure, some issues can't be bridged. We know what those are. In the end, majority public opinion will be what decides those as politicians – who must be elected to stay politicians – tend to fall mostly in line with a majority opinion once it gains enough approval. But most issues can be compromised on, and I've been thinking lately about how we as Americans can start to bridge our differences and come together so that politicians will do so, as well.
That brings us to my sister-in-law's wedding, which took place the other weekend.
Weddings are wonderful. Two distinct individuals come together to formally join their lives together. Weddings are simply magnificent events. But – maybe more importantly – they involve group dancing.
I love to dance at weddings. You bunch up in a smallish square area, you move your feet, you throw your hands up in the air and then you just don't care. (Unless you are holding red wine near a white wedding dress. Then, please – for the sake of all that is good – care at least a little bit.)
And then there are the group dances: The chicken dance, the electric slide, the cha-cha slide and – this summer's entry – Gangnam Style. These are my favorite because it is during these dances when we truly come together as one.
Dancing together – whether as a pair or a group – is about forming a collective identity. Almost every culture throughout history has had its people dance together in some way. For that time while our bodies are in motion, we are one entity.
Why can't we apply some of this dancing magic to everyday life and politics? Now, I'm certainly not proposing that we have Obama and Romney waltz together during the third presidential debate. (Hmmm. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. No, no. That wouldn't work at all. They'd be much more of a calypso duo.) But perhaps a group dance once a week that would involve the members of Congress, the President and the members of the Supreme Court? Before you have an argument with a friend regarding politics, perhaps do a quick two-step together before the verbal darts start flying?
Crazy, you say? As crazy as legislation and progress being held up because Republicans refuse to work with Democrats or Democrats refuse to reach across the aisle enough to Republicans?
Dancing together as a group requires paying attention to those around you and trying to synch up with their rhythm. If one person is "squawking" during the chicken dance, while the next person is "flapping their wings," well then you just have chicken dance anarchy and nobody wants that.
Maybe after the big group dance was over, the politicians would jump right back into "my way of the highway." But during the dance, they'd have to try to be in synch with each other. And being in synch with each other is the first step toward understanding each other and compromise. After enough dances, who knows? But as with any dance, you can't get started until you take that first step.
It's time we as a nation started to dance with each other again. We just need to take that first step.
• Going for Gusto is a blog by Joe Grace. Columns, videos, lists and quick thoughts posted throughout the week. Send questions, comments and blog ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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