Maybe it’s time for us to start looking for new ways to force people out of their geographical and digital bubbles and help them to see that we have more in common than we do differences. Domestic exchange programs and building a new Civilian Conservation Corps would be great places to start, developing friendships and connections that potentially last decades. There is no shame in loving our homes and taking great pride in our towns, cities, and states. The problem is when we see those towns, cities, and states as “the best of all possible worlds,” to borrow a phrase from Candide.
Even those least affected by COVID-19 and the ripple effect of its presence will be forever changed. It is understandable to desire a return to “normal.” It is human to look back on the past with a sense of clouded nostalgia, remembering things as we want to remember them, not as they actually were. But before we jump into a return to the way things were, we should take a moment to imagine the way things could be.
We aren’t all walking around with signs on us telling people what we are dealing with or revealing our pasts. Like many, I’m also guilty of sitting on my high horse from my social media dais making proclamations about issues that I know very little about without getting curious about why my opponents feel so different from me. I’m guilty of seeing myself as superior in my knowledge and understanding of the world around me. I’m guilty of looking down on those who do not see the world as I do. But what if, instead of just attacking those who we disagree with, we just started by asking “why do you feel this way?” What if we committed to being more inquisitive? What if we started by having a conversation instead of just making assumptions?
I want a thriving nation, not a wealthy nation. That doesn’t mean that everyone makes the same amount of money, drives the same kind of cars, and lives in the same size of houses. Instead, I want to live in a nation where physical and mental health are the norm, we are not overworked, and we are able to find satisfaction in our daily lives. This is not a utopian ideal; this is just the pursuit of progress that benefits the majority, not the few.
We have to stop depending on our politicians to make our country better. Yes, there are big things that we individual citizens are not capable of doing on our own, but this is our country. We don’t have to wait for others to make it a better, more equitable place for all of us.
But we need to start seeing more than red and blue. We need to see each other (and our leaders) as more than representatives of our political identity and ideology and demand that our leadership work for all of us. And we need to require that of each other.