It's the middle of January, 2021. You know what that means, don't you. We're waiting to see what is going to happen. If you're like me, you feel a bit of trepidation about the future. You may be feeling a bit vulnerable. A bit unsettled. A touch afraid.
We watch the news, listen to podcasts, read blogs. We want to know how we got here. We want to know where we're going. We would all love a simple explanation.
That desire for a simple explanation is partly what got us where we are. When a friend or family member loses their job or their home in a changing economy, we want an answer to why.
It doesn't have to be a complete answer, or really even factually based. We just need an answer that makes sense. An answer that seems right. An answer that fits with our view of how things are and how they should be.
The quick and easy thing to do comes quite naturally. Find someone to blame. That normally means looking at people least like me, because we all know that our perspective is the right one, so naturally, those who do not share it have the wrong one. And people with an opinion that runs contrary to mine are not to be trusted.
It is pretty well accepted that we live in a polarized world. Cooperation and community have been nearly replaced by a distinct 'us vs. them' mentality. While there have always been people who defaulted to that way of thinking, in the past they were in a minority. It seems the pendulum has swung.
Our technology allows us to surround ourselves with like-minded people. We agree with them and they agree with us. We feed each other, reinforcing our chosen ideology in a vacuum, unchallenged by opposing perspectives. We are no longer forced by physical proximity to be civil, so we choose to behave however we wish. This choice is normally toward the path of least resistance. That is not usually a good thing.
When "those people" (meaning anyone not like me), are seen to be gaining an advantage, we perceive that their gain is our loss. Their success becomes a threat.
When people feel threatened, they often respond with threats. Escalation follows, one threat birthing another. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the natural outcome of that cycle.
I am hoping the new leadership will be able to help the distrustful among us feel less threatened. I hope they will move gently in the days ahead. Focus on building bridges and not barriers. Avoid knee-jerk reactions in critical moments. Avoid alienating people by restricting their freedom.
Choose wisely, Washington D.C. Lead well.