It’s a new day today in America.
Maybe not the one you envisioned. Maybe not the one you voted for.
But as with any milestone like a birthday or New Year’s Eve, today is an opportunity. An opportunity for a reset.
Let’s first all agree on one thing: We are going to disagree. In a country with so much ethnic and racial and social and political diversity, disagreement is inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be destructive.
It’s how we go about disagreeing, and how we go about finding common ground for compromise, that is the challenge.
The first step we need to take is to become better informed. Misinformation is a major reason why people are unable to reach common ground.
Being better informed means getting our information from reliable sources. We’re not just talking about traditional news sources like newspapers and television. The internet has given us the ability to verify information with original sources.
Government officials, watchdog groups and political organizations all post their viewpoints online. If you want to know the position of a candidate or elected official, don’t take someone else’s word for it. Look it up yourself.
Read legislation, court documents and reports, all often posted online. Read perspectives of people who agree with you and who don’t.
Next, be tolerant of other views.
Not everyone who disagrees with you is necessarily an idiot. Intelligent, thoughtful people can reach different conclusions based on similar information. Learn to tell the difference between informed argument and uninformed argument.
Be considerate. The best way to sow division is with insults and demeaning comments. Change your approach for the sake of progress. We still might disagree, even strongly. But resolve to make the effort. The other way doesn’t work.
Finally, be active. The best way to effect the change is to participate. Vote. Engage in peaceful protest and thoughtful discussion. Write letters to the editor. Volunteer or run for political office. Call or email your elected representatives and share your views. You want change? Do something to make it happen. Just do it peacefully and respectfully, as you would want others to do.
Democracy works best not necessarily when its citizens agree, but when they engage with the ultimate goal of finding common ground.
Get better informed. Get more active. Be respectful and mindful of the perspectives of others.
Celebrate American democracy today by striving to become a better citizen.