Vail Daily column: The two most important people in this election
Perhaps it is the proliferation of modes of communication, but it seems that more words, cartoons, and graphics (certainly, memes) have been created for this election than any other in history. Many of them have been centered on the vitriolic nature of the campaign, either reflecting upon that unfortunate outcome or fomenting it. The race for the presidency has created a dichotomy: the forces of good amassed behind their savior, doing battle against the hordes of evil headed by the certain devil. Both sides of the divide, no, chasm, have that specific perspective. The future of this country has been posited to lie in the hands of only two individuals. In this manufactured duality, an incorrect choice in Tuesday’s election shall be the foretelling of Armageddon. But this characterization emphasizes the wrong two people. To save our society from doom, the focus must be on the right duo: oneself and the person with whom one interacts. In each moment, those are the only people that matter.
No reset button exists
In a country filled with hundreds of millions of people, it is overwhelming to contemplate the restoration of civility on a wholesale basis. To repair the rifts created during the past decades of increasing polarization, we cannot simply apply a magical salve. There is no megalithic reset button. Words and policies implemented from above are not a tenable solution, no matter what either of our candidates may declare. Sure, those may be helpful in not doing further harm, but to suture the wounds, we have to start smaller.
A problem is most easily tackled by breaking it down into its constituent parts. We, as singular citizens, the members of the larger constituency, are complicit in allowing matters to have degraded this far. Therefore, we are now tasked with building the bridges that will allow our community to reconnect. The most difficult part of any daunting project is simply to begin.
Today is the day that we commence our national rehabilitation. Step one: When speaking with someone, texting them, emailing them, tweeting at them, leaving a comment on their Facebook wall, doing any number of other social media interactions, remember that they are also human. That they had an upbringing, have gone through experiences, had influences that informed their perspectives. You need not agree with other people. But you must assume that their views, being intensely personal, are valid. There is no such thing as right. That is a relative concept. When you look at the person with whom you are communicating through that lens, it alters the manner in which you will treat that person. With some certainty, I can predict that humanizing your compatriot will have you address them in the way that you may wish to be addressed. This is especially powerful if that person is one that you would have previously considered an opponent.
A second critical step is to ignore labels, to treat each person and each interaction as a clean, neutral slate. It is possible to be a fiscally conservative Democrat or a pro-choice Republican. Political parties and the stereotypes they engender are artificial constructs. They are misguided attempts to sort the infinite complexities of humanity into two neat little piles. A corollary to this is that a person is worthy of respect, of equal treatment, regardless of their skin color, sexual orientation, country of origin, wealth or other indicia by which people tend to discriminate. That is a founding principle of our country and all the more important as we become ever more diverse. You may quarrel with a refugee’s ability to secure social services, that is your prerogative as a holder of an opinion. But it is inexcusable to treat them as subhuman. We must break the cycle of treating newcomers as interlopers. The Dutch did it to the British, the British to the Irish, the Irish to the Polish and so forth and so on. It is the path that led us to the disturbing present.
Grounded in these fundamental tenets, each dyad’s positive interactions will link up with the other constructive couplets to form the bedrock upon which our new monument to national unity will be built. Threatened by forces both internal and external, we have reached a crux point where we can either descend into an irreparable dystopia or else rise again to the promise birthed at our independence.
Such a lofty goal begins not with multitudes, not with the uninspired choice that faces the county Tuesday. It starts with you and me. Us.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.