AUTHOR: John Bedell (Democrat)
Conversation is broken in the United States. Failed conversations have failed Americans. Broken conversations have halted progress, leaving a brighter more equitable future shattered on the ground amongst the failed attempts to find support for families currently struggling and for proper pandemic preparedness.
2020 was marked by pain, brokenness, and a fork in the road. A decision to be made between an honest America that goes through the growing pains as a “united” nation, or a dishonest America that runs from open and honest conversation in favor of a nation that only works for the few. While the growing pains may be tough, a better tomorrow is something all can strive towards.
How do we, a nation into which division is deeply sewn, work to become truly “United.”
The answer lies in the exchange of ideas and in the willingness to listen to the stories our fellow citizen has to tell, the experiences they have had, and the painful truths we have remained blind to for far too long.
America has a painful history with conversation. Often hailed by many, conversation has far too frequently been limited to that which benefits the story most convenient to this nation. The conversation between white man and white man, often denying painful truth in favor of comfortable falsehoods.
And yet, here we are. A moment in history in which our national identity has now more than ever been opened for discussion. What do we, as a collective people, make of this moment? What will the conversations of the coming years look like in comparison to the conversations of the past? How can we ensure they are more favorable, more equitable, and more understanding?
The first piece of a conversation is a basic understanding of the topic at hand. What are you talking about and what are the truths you can agree upon? In productive conversations, some facts are blatantly true, pieces of information that are agreed upon by both parties. If you and I were talking about my front lawn, we would start by agreeing that grass is green and grows in the ground, and even if I was trying to make an argument that I should pave my entire front lawn, I could not deny the fact that my grass is, in fact, green. As simple as the truth is in this example, admitting a fact that does not directly play to our advantage has proven difficult for the United States. Manifesting itself today not only in the denial of systemic racism among the white communities, and denial of the COVID death toll by nearly a third of Americans, admitting the truth is distinctly hard for Americans. This had become manifested in a President which, according to the Washington Post in October, was averaging over 50 false or misleading claims a day. When President Trump himself is free from the burdens of the truth, little motivation is given to his supporters and even the entirety of his constituents to speak from truth on issues at hand. This assault on truth and fact is not something that will disappear easily, however, a change in commitment to truth can begin at the top.
According to the national political fact-checker Politifact, 60% of President Joe Biden’s checked statements are categorized as being True to Half True and 38% as being Mostly False to completely false.. This contrasts with President Trump who, according to the same organization, has made 24% of his statements in the True-Half True range and 64% in the Mostly False completely false rage. When the leader of the free world is free from the burden of truth, there is no incentive to move forward on common ground. With a proclaimed newfound commitment to the truth in the Oval Office, we as a nation are hopeful to have an opportunity to turn on the television with the hopes of finding a news conference more frequently lined in truth than laced in lies, serving as the foundation for uniting conversation rather than dividing conflict.
Conversation is bigger than 280 characters. Bigger than a tweet. Conversation contains nuance, and it is often in this nuance where the most growth arises. Twitter is an incredible resource that has allowed for the mobilization of movements that have brought insane good throughout our communities. Twitter can be used to build grassroots and to help empower a population. Twitter shouldn’t be used for tantrums from the President and policy proposals. Trump has used Twitter for intentions never before seen from a sitting President. Trump has turned to Twitter to comment on matters spanning popular culture and sports to policy proposals containing details that are arguably more deserving for a press conference. Throughout his time as President-Elect, Joe Biden has offered a restoration to a long form style of addressing the nation, one that offers space to examine the claims made, and a chance to grow from a base that contains more than a few words. Our conversations have to, for the first time, have the courage and the space to become uncomfortable. The trust to know that in these uncomfortable moments we as a people can grow towards a more understanding and more equitable tomorrow.
Joe Biden may not be the savior, but he just might be the solution. Joe Biden is not something shockingly new, but he is something refreshingly different than the last four years; however, electing Joe Biden will not make our problems go away. A new president is a start but systemic problems will likely persist after he is gone, and while he is in office. The conversations we had in this year must continue into the next four, aware of our piece in the new administration, as a concerned constituent committed to bettering the country. We as a people have a problem that will outlive a Biden administration, and outlive us too if we are not careful. A people centric government has to be people powered. And the best way to ensure a government that is people powered is to empower the people around you. What better way to do that than to listen. To turn to the truth. To be willing to step into the uncomfortable to make a world that is better than the one of today.
2021 is not going to be better simply because it is not 2020. 2021 will be better because we decide daily to commit to a world that is more equitable and more honest. With ourselves and with our fellow person. A United States of America is possible, but it begins in the uncomfortable. In the uncomfortable we can grow united.
*Image – Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons