The greatest threat to our American republic is the deep and divisive effect of extreme polarization. Our news sources have no longer become reliable sources of information. Some of our citizens and politicians have taken fixed stances along to lines of conservatism or liberalism. Its results are that of incomplete information and unrelenting acrimony. We are no longer a nation guided by the common goals of unity and civility. Threatening the very structure of what makes America a special place.
Our journalistic bastions from prior years have succumbed to one-sided journalism and forgotten the values of Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley. No longer can the New York Times say, “All the news that fit to print.” The Washington Post, a long-standing bastion of journalistic integrity panders to its audience without respect to the complete facts. CNN is no longer a fair and unbiased beacon of world events. Fox news has become little more than a rehash of conservative thinking.
Recently, I read that the controversial politician, commonly known as AOC, visited the border detention areas and promptly declared that detainees were drinking from toilets! Her declaration was reported as facts and painted a picture of abuse that simply didn’t exist.
When I read this I knew better. This was no more than a politician seeking personal gain and ultimately votes, while unnecessarily alarming the American people. The real facts are very different than her assertion. In each cell there is a combined sink and toilet. While physically connected, the plumbing is not connected. A simple fact that changes her story. A simple fact that with only a few more questions would have given her the truth. Instead she chose a narrative that supported her goal and not the truth.
We are a country where we have the freedom of speech and the freedom of opinion. But do we have the freedom of misinformation and half-truths? Are we a country that will continue to polarize without concern for the complete facts? Are we a country where large parts of population feel neglected? Should we be a country where bi-partisan politics are the norm?
Many of our citizens are alarmed at the polarization that has occurred. They desire the truth and want unbiased news reports. They want politicians that seek the truth and to serve as patriots. A recent poll conducted by Pew Research shows an “exhausted majority” of close to 67% of all Americans who desire the truth and a more middle ground. Yet the voices on the fringe dominate our national discourse.
There is a simple solution and it involves loving our neighbor. It is the second of two commandments given to us by Christ. The first is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor. Simple messages with profound importance. If we truly believe in God, and 90% of Americans do, then following the second part becomes paramount. That is to love our neighbor.
To do this requires love and compassion. Which in turn requires us to be more concerned with the truth and how we relay the truth. Love and compassion will motivate our inner selves to seek first the correct answer regardless of our desired outcome. With love and compassion in our hearts we will first seek other opinions and learn to balance the input.
It also means that our neighbor is universal and not just the ones we pick, but all our neighbors. It means that our personal agenda and desire for gain is supplanted by a committed zeal to know and hear all.
In my book, Jesus & Co., the issue of fairness in how we conduct ourselves with our neighbor is a paramount value to be successful in life. Not just those we agree with, but with those who have different views. When we only hear or see what agrees with us, we become polarizing and unfair to those with differing opinions. Discourse is stopped and the truth is buried.
As Christians, we can stop the rancor and anger. Simply by following the commandment of loving thy neighbor. Which means all our neighbors. We need to put in second place our agendas and material gains. Anything that is pursued without the thought of common good is inferior to those thoughts of a common purpose.
Knowing the truth changes everything and at once ends acrimony. It is not just the responsibility of our press, but for all Americans. We should not honor or hold in high esteem those that manipulate the truth. But seek our heroes in those that love the truth.
Gains that are made through misinformation are always short lived. For the moment they will satisfy those hungry mouths of discontent. They serve only to create rancor and leave our neighbors behind.
As Americans we owe it our founding fathers, the people who have given their lives in service and fought bravely; to strive for completeness. To strive to critically think with honesty and not personal gain. We should strive to change the course of events through a zeal to be good neighbors and not harbingers of ill will.
No fire has ever been put out with gasoline. No lasting solution has ever been found without a high quality of purpose.
Our solutions are easily obtained when we become riveted on pursuing life with love and compassion for our neighbor. No longer interested for the other person to take the first step, but with a heart that desires to be the leader in finding the truth. No longer interested in our profits, but committed to the good for all.
Dr. Bruce L Hartman, Christian Author and Story Teller. A former Fortune 500 CFO who left the corporate world to engage in a ministry of “Connecting The Lessons of the Gospels to the Modern Workplace.” His life mission is “Helping People Walk into a Brighter Future.”
He is the author of Jesus & Co.