As the headlines roll out day after day (minute after minute, really), the news regarding the impeachment inquiry and the President’s actions has become overwhelming to sift through. With each article I read, I wonder—what here is true? What here is written in a politically slanted way? What happened, what didn’t happen, how do we interpret what we know? How do we find out that which is hidden? There’s nothing straightforward and simple about our current political moment and how it’s being reported.
One thing we all agree on: our country is embroiled in a messy, bitter fight between two sides. The name calling continues, and the events that are unfolding are being interpreted largely along party lines. Those interpretations lie in strangely stark contrast—how can one side be certain the president committed high crimes and misdemeanors which warrant his removal from office, while the other side is convinced that he has done nothing wrong and it’s all business as usual?
Following the news will give you whiplash. Take, for example, these recent editorials: the Wall Street Journal editorial board states there’s nothing to see in the Ukraine call; the New York Times editorial board states there is no choice but to proceed with the impeachment inquiry.* Undergirding the vast amounts of news being published is the drumbeat of our country’s partisanship—the right and left are insulting each other’s methods and motives and many of us are joining the fracas and choosing sides.
As I read and watch and wait, I’m disheartened. Disheartened by the ugliness we see on the public stage and citizens’ reactions, and also by the daily evidence that our country isn’t healthy. How can we think well about all of this? What can we do to contribute positively?
3 Things We All Can Do to Contribute Positively
1) Let’s choose to slow down.
The Republicans’ rush to claim innocence and the Democrats’ rush to declare certainty of impeachable offenses are both misplaced. So is the media’s frenzied reporting, with headlines breaking so often one can’t keep up. The whole country needs to slow its roll. The situation at hand would benefit from a willingness to wait, listen, and learn. Much more needs to be known before we declare with certainty what happened and what the outcome should be. Do you find yourself declaring that you just KNOW President Trump is innocent/guilty? None of us know all the details of what happened and the extent of the situation at this point. It’s time to slow down our reactions and evaluations; it’s time to listen and learn with wisdom and careful discernment.
2) Let’s choose to seek truth over power.
Are Democrats desirous of learning the truth, with an openness to finding out there is no cause for impeachment? Are Republicans willing to seek truth with the possibility of arriving at admitting that impeachable offenses occurred? Is either party willing to seek the truth, no matter what it might do to their power? Methinks the answer is clearly no, given what we are seeing play out daily on the national stage. Power and being right are being pursued over truth.
Even more troubling, the value and understanding of truth seems to be shaky in our country. The Wall Street Journal, in recapping recent political polling, writes, “The share of respondents expressing “strong” approval of the president jumped from 29% to 35%, its highest level ever, and the share regarding him as “honest” rose from 30% to 37%.”
The last fact took my breath away. It is well known that President Trump is not prone to truthfulness. His factual errors and downright lies are well documented in the media.** And yet, here we are, the number of people stating they regard Trump as honest is rising in the polls as people react to impeachment news. What a troubling time; we seem to not even know how to evaluate honesty and truth anymore.
What do we do? We rededicate ourselves to desiring truth. We check our own hearts; it starts with us as individuals. Are we reading the news hoping our chosen party will be vindicated? Are we likely to avoid news that shares evidence that might discredit our opinion? Are we filtering everything we hear through a lens of our desired outcome? We need to be careful of confirmation bias and the desire to be proven right. Let’s rededicate ourselves to desiring and seeking truth. Truth will lead us forward, even if it turns out to be truth we didn’t want to hear.
3) Let’s seek to move towards each other instead of towards political power.
Seeking the Good, True, and Beautiful is more important than supporting a political party. I was troubled by this recent opinion piece by David Brooks in the New York Times, Yes, Trump Is Guilty, but Impeachment Is a Mistake (and other articles like it). It seems we are coming to the conclusion that impeachment will do more damage than good, even if our President’s behavior turns out to be impeachable.
My point isn’t to share what I believe about the president’s behavior. Rather, I want to us to ponder the state of our country. What a fragile moment we have reached if impeaching an impeachable offense could be bad for us. It comes back to power vs. truth, party vs. personhood, control vs. community. We need to move away from partisanship and towards each other. The insults of the “other” party/parties need to stop. The constant black-and-white thinking that leads us to believe one side is wonderful and the other terrible needs to end. We need to work to find what we can agree on instead of hardening into our disagreements. It’s time to end attitudes that see Republicans as heroes and Democrats as villains, or vice versa, whatever your opinions are. We need to seek ways to cross the aisle instead of name calling and blaming.
What does that look like for each of us? I think it means humbling ourselves to be willing to find the good each political party is pursuing, even when there are deep disagreements and concerns with certain aspects of policy. Do you identify as a Democrat? Take time to look for the good in what Republicans seek for our country. Do you identify as a Republican? Take time to look for the good in what Democrats seek for our country. Seek to see the Good, the True, and the Beautiful for this country, and don’t let a political label decide what those are for you. There is such a thing as absolute truth, and no party owns it.
As the impeachment news continues to rolls out and the conflicts and noise threaten to overwhelm, let’s see how we can add positive contributions—by thinking carefully about the situation and not jumping to conclusion based on our party affiliation; by putting a desire for truth above a desire to be right; by adding love for others and a respect for those whose opinion we don’t share to the mix each day; by seeking to see the good in the party we disagree with; and by speaking with wisdom and care instead of insults and condemnation.
*If the first thing that sprung to your mind was “The New York Times is too liberal, can’t trust ’em,” or “The Wall Street Journal is too conservative, don’t read it,” take a step back. This partisan attitude is a huge problem in our country; we sort everything into partisan boxes and then dismiss anything we’ve placed in the box of the “other side.” There are smart, responsible, intelligent, wise citizens and leaders on BOTH sides of the aisle. There are also power-hungry, unwise, unethical people on both sides of the aisle. Challenge yourself to cross the divide by listening to wise people and good thinkers on both sides, and by being willing to read media that may not support your political leaning.