The interruption of this holiday season seems especially welcoming this year as we have just experienced one of the most contentious times in our nation’s history. Politics has never been a great topic for dinner conversation, but the current, caustic climate has numbed us all to the shouting matches and arguments that have become commonplace in our society.
The divide in our country is deep and, unfortunately, the currently structured political system has much to gain from these deep divides.
Back in October, Saturday Night Live performed one of their recurring sketches called “Black Jeopardy.” In the skit, there are always two African American contestants (along with an African-American host) competing alongside one well-intentioned, but disconnected Caucasian.
On this particular episode, Tom Hanks played a Trump-supporting, Caucasian named Doug whose costume consisted of a “Make America Great Again” hat and a patriotic tee shirt. As the skit began, I said to myself, “I know where this is going.” All the pieces were in place to once again show how different the American experience is for blacks and whites.
However, the skit went on to prove that SNL still stands at the front of the line of comedic, political satire in the US. It turns out, as the two African-American contestants would learn through some questions, Doug wasn’t as different from them as they thought.
Through the game show questions, all three contestants resonated with things as diverse as their feelings about the government, what movies they enjoy watching, and having to get their cars fixed by overpriced mechanics. At the end of the skit the host, Darnell, says, “You know, you are all right, Doug.”
The 2016 Presidential election showed us political machines and political parties have a tendency to treat common people like pawns. At the heart of their operation is reinforcing the divide between people. While there may be a general consensus or agreement on about 75 percent of things, a disproportionate amount of attention tends to be given to the 25 percent of things we disagree about.
As a result, we are left feeling as though, those people who disagree with us on some important matters are nothing like us. Slowly, differing opinions or life experiences drift away from each other to the point that they may stop interacting altogether. In doing this, we allow our differences to define us and, subsequently, divide us.
The holiday season is a nice time to be reminded of the many things that we have in common. While we may choose to celebrate (or not to celebrate) different religious celebrations at this time of year, everyone enjoys watching the joy in the eyes of a toddler watching the first snowfall of the season, appreciates the Salvation Army’s bell ringers giving their time for charity, and smiles at the decorations and lights that line our streets and fill our neighborhoods.
In today’s broken and fractured world, one of the most important qualities a person can possess is empathy. Talk radio personalities and politicians alike want to talk about how different we are, but one of the most powerful statements that we can make to another person is, “Me too.”
Instead of holding steady to your long held political beliefs, why not get to know someone who believes something different? Instead of being so quick to talk, why not commit to listening? Ohio is considered a bell weather state because it is a microcosm of the entire country. We are so fortunate to have such a diverse community here in central Ohio.
If you don’t have friends who are different than you, I would encourage you to make some new friends in 2017 – friends who look different than you, go to a different house of worship than you, and … yes … even who voted different than you. You just may find yourself saying, “Me too.”
Adam Metz is pastor, Alum Creek Church in Lewis Center.