The First Presidential Debate: A Mess of Our Own Making

Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake, what we saw on the debate stage last week is a direct reflection of the American political conversation that we have created. It did not happen overnight, or even over the last 4 years.

We have let two parties boil down the views of millions of voters into two platforms, and further allowed them to convince us there are no other valid options. These platforms are miraculously opposed on almost every issue down the ballot, forcing us into a gang mentality. We have allowed party to come before all else and ask for complete loyalty to the entire platform without deviation to ensure that at best our party ‘wins’ and at worst we have a zero-sum outcome.

We are not forcing those that govern us to discuss the actual policies by which they do so.

We base entire arguments and stances on headlines and memes.

We say things like “All Democrats/Republicans are (insert insult here).”

We shout down or worse yet, tune out opposing viewpoints.

We take to social media to post a few sentences (at best) that are then likely taken out of context by someone of an opposing viewpoint and then quickly devolve into fighting over something irrelevant to the conversation. Then paint the rest of that person’s party with the broad brush of ignorance or stupidity for disagreeing with us.

We have put politics into a box that says ‘do not open unless discussing with people you agree with,’ because at the end of the day we cannot remain friends or maintain respect for someone that disagrees with our stance on how to best levy taxes on a population.

We have asked news outlets to provide free information to us, which has forced them to change their model from focusing on what is the most accurate reporting to what reporting will draw the most attention in order to sell to advertisers to make money. Instead of paying 50 cents for the morning news we now pay with our collective ignorance and apathy to consume long-form information.

We do not verify the validity of a news source before we repeat or internalize the information.

We stopped respecting each other.

Why would it come as any surprise that the leaders we are choosing to represent us are doing anything different?

My fellow Americans, I urge you to break this cycle of misinformation, apathy, and disrespect. Build better habits. Engage in logical arguments and not fighting. Step out of your echo chamber to take in information from multiple sources and challenge the validity of those sources. Even the ones you agree with. Follow news sources you disagree with. Demand more of your elected officials to govern in our best interests, not those of their political party.

And above all else, treat your neighbor as yourself.