I did not know AC/DC was a Christian rock band. Was “Highway to Hell” a prophetic song about these times?
I ask because many of our principles in these and future (because there will be more) issues seem to be on either a Trump train or a wide liberal highway headed straight to hell.
On Wednesday, six House Democrats introduced articles of impeachment against Trump. Once again, we have another politimedia (politics +media) fiasco to pull on people’s emotions and further get the U.S. into a greater uproar because we have been in an almost non-stop uproar since November 2016. I guess nothing wets the American spectator appetite like crime drama and reality television. Now we have a tantalizing marriage of both.
When I observed the reactions of masses of people to the call for Trump’s impeachment, I viewed a sea of anger and rejoicing.
As I watched the live stream footage of the announcement, I spotted an almost distracting stream of angry emoticons and hearts flowing across my computer screen.
Many of the people who supported Trump ignored and refused to entertain the allegations. I read comments even suggesting that the impeachment of the president would start a civil war. The people who rejoiced at the call for impeachment did not seem to care about challenges to merits of the call and the lack of scrutiny within their own respective parties. In other words, it was another emotionally laden fight where no one chose to accept that all politicians are human- fallible humans. It was another hub-bub where people chose to fight to be right according to their pride rather than for what is right according to principles.
Emotions constitute part of our humanity. Hey, I am all for expressing our emotions. As a matter of fact, let us throw a birthday party for them.
However, living and reacting in polarizing ways unearths a deeper issue beyond a matter of emotional expression. When we consistently rely more emotional reactions when we disagree with another perspective than intentionally striving to healthily engage with the other side, we create habits of our mind. These habits of thinking become a way of life.
We condition ourselves to only handle what looks like us, thinks like us, and talks like us. Consequently, it prevents us from ever expanding and growing, or dealing with conflict and change with a healthy approach.
By habitually reacting, reacting, and reacting, without listening, listening, and listening to the other side, we internally disconnect from our deepest principles that we claim undergird our beliefs.
Let us briefly consider three common examples of principles and how a fiery disconnect in our integrity shows up in our politimedia responses.
I am a truther- a fan of truth, that is.
If honesty is one of our principles, then upholding it becomes paramount to any party or opinion. What often happens is that we claim that honesty as one of our principles, but we choose to ignore the dishonest actions of the people we prefer. When it comes to the people and groups we dislike, we transform into white hat wearing honesty warriors.
However, if honesty really is one of our principles, then we leave no stone unturned within our own political party, too. As people striving to live honestly, we do not choose to live a lie in order to remain in solidarity with a group. Instead, we hold accountable even those within our respective groups, as much as we go on an honesty campaign against the others.
The common reaction I see is that of two wrongs make a right. Whenever a Trump supporter is faced with news about lack of integrity or a mishandled issue by our current president, a popular response is to justify it by pointing out ways the Democrats ignored allegations about lack of integrity with Clinton or Obama.
Similar to honesty, the highway to hell with our principles has been littered with trash being thrown against each other in order to justify unethical behavior. Two wrongs make two wrongs, not a right.
Although revealing the hypocrisy in another side provides an opportunity for them to address their own weakened integrity, to do it in order to get ourselves off the hook does not support strength of integrity. Likewise, lashing out at people who call attention to integrity issues in a person we follow shows that we do not prize integrity. If we prize integrity, we take allegations seriously to ensure that soundness of integrity persists. We take responsibility for any gaps in integrity, even if the other side refuses to do the same.
If fairness is one of our deepest principles, then we shall not feel at ease with only focusing on the horribleness of Trump, while pretending that Obama or Clinton live with sparkling halos, and vice-versa. When Obama was president, and at times even now, there were people who refused to give him the benefit of the doubt and perpetually interpreted wrong in his words and actions. Therefore, when we commit to fairness, we halt our unexamined heavily one-sided thinking. Because all of us have biases, we intentionally monitor them to ensure we remain in integrity with our principle of fairness.
By now, you might have more questions. Like, why do we live with this disconnect? Is hell even real?
At this time, I am not going to write at length about the reality of my hell metaphor. If you doubt hell’s existence, try navigating Atlanta or Washington, D.C. rush hour traffic on a rainy day. As for the former question, the reasons for living with this disconnect can range from a need for more self-reflection, a lack of clarity in our principles to a habit of unconsciously living more by our emotions than principles.
I do not believe it is worth living according to emotions about the external rather than from the facts of our internal– no matter if it is politics, media, or a shiny new nickel.
There is another way.
We kick the emotions out of the driver’s seat, and we exit off the highway to hell (See what I did there). We choose to express and remain present with our emotions without sending our principles to a fiery grave. As we move forward, we intentionally foreground our principles as we choose truly listen and connect across our differences.
And this is the beginning of salvation.