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Column: Can we move past the division that led to Capitol attack?
Shannon Casas high res
Shannon Casas

When can we stop railing against the other? They’re not listening. 

In the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol, I watched people react with the same tired arguments, pointing out how the other side was wrong. Some took the opportunity to say they’re tired of being polite — what happened at the Capitol was the last straw. I’m not sure who was being polite on social media before now, but apparently they’re now done with it. You’ve been warned.

What happened at the Capitol is infuriating. But more fury isn’t going to mend the fabric of our nation, which seems to be in shreds. There must be consequences for criminal acts, but how do we find a way back to political discourse that doesn’t lead to violence? Can we allow for opposing opinions on the same set of facts? 

The biggest piece of fiction we believe is that the other side is the enemy. We have yelled at one another for years, and though there is no excuse for violence, are we surprised that’s where this environment led? We’ve toiled the earth and watered the seeds of division.

There are many who should be held responsible for extremist actions, but we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t realize this problem will continue so long as we keep nurturing the lies.

There’s certainly a tension between calling out what’s wrong and whether that wrongdoing can be forgiven. Racism is wrong. Violent rioting is wrong, no matter the cause. But how can the right and left move forward in a way that doesn’t continue bearing this poisonous fruit? 

Many have compared the events of the summer with the events of last week. The events of this summer were about racial justice, that Black people should be treated with just as much dignity as White people. The events of last week were about election security, that every legal vote should count. Do most of us not believe those things?

It seems we’re quick to assume most on the other side don’t believe those things, especially when the loudest voices are the ones on the extremes. 

Is it possible to condemn criminal acts and move forward? It seems we’re so busy blaming the other side and feeling righteous about it, we can’t fathom discussing solutions to these problems.

Can we stop with the assumptions and instead debate about what kind of police and election reform are good and necessary?

Is it possible for considerate, thoughtful people to raise their voices and be heard?

Is it possible for us to see one another as Americans who care about our country? To be Americans who care about one another?

We must stop arguing with strangers and instead build relationships. That works best here at home rather than in the comment section of media outlets. No one in those comment sections asks how little Susie is doing in her piano lessons or how Aunt Jane is coping after her cancer diagnosis or what you thought about the game last night. Instead, there’s just politics and you’re wrong and I’m right. We’ve stripped away the humanity so much so that it’s become difficult to see it even in person sometimes.

So, how do we find our way back to respectable political discourse? How do we move forward? How can we restore faith in one another even in disagreement?

What happened at the Capitol was just plain sad, among other things. 

We must have better conversations and better relationships if our nation is to heal. 

I don’t know all the answers to these questions, but telling other people they’re wrong isn’t a good starting point, even when they are. This is a really hard one for me. But let the courts settle who is wrong and what the consequences are. In the meantime, we can work toward understanding our neighbors on the other side of the political aisle. 

Ask people why they believe what they do and why they’re passionate about it. 

You might discover you agree on more than you realize. Even if you don’t, you may at least understand a bit more about that person’s story. 

A little understanding can go a long way when it comes to where our arguments lead. Let’s be part of the solution and pray our nation’s arguments never lead again to where they did Jan. 6.

Shannon Casas is editor in chief of The Times and a North Hall resident. 

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