Today the presidential election is taking place in the United States of America. The thing that has most upset me about the campaigns has been the polarization of a people. So much makes this obvious every day. Recent news reports state that big changes in who is voting for whom are no longer expected. People are entrenched. On Sunday The Boston Globe ran two front page stories in which they went to one community in Massachusetts where Clinton is clearly ahead and one community in West Virginia where Trump is clearly ahead and asked what people feared most if the other person won. The answers were practically identical—corruption, economic disaster, and war—and in both cases they thought their candidate was the only way to avoid those things. A TV news report a week or two ago, I think on the BBC, showed the same thing. Even Facebook posts that show up on my news feed support this picture. Neither group shows any curiosity—God forbid they should show any understanding—as to why the people on the other side are voting for their candidate. This is truly the path to ruin.
What struck me recently in a discussion I had about abortion rights is (a) how much we can learn about the multiple facets of an issue by listening to why other people believe what they believe and (b) how that then requires us to look beyond whether something is simply right or wrong. It requires us to see things in more nuanced and complex ways—which is much more challenging, can be distinctly uncomfortable, and yet is the only way to reach some kind of resolution that most people can live with. We do all share the country (and, ultimately, the planet) after all.
As I have written elsewhere, curiosity is, of course, not enough to solve the immense challenges and disagreements we are facing. It does seem to me, however, that without a desire to learn about other people and why they hold their views—without that kind of curiosity—we can’t even get started because we are all pulling as hard as we can in opposite directions.