Can we find peace and goodwill this Christmas?

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

“Peace on Earth, good will toward men.”

Those words should – and I hope will — describe our interactions with friends and family over the holidays. But, with so much division and anger, I suspect for some folks that will prove difficult.

We’ve never been a perfect people, racism, imperialism, sexism, religious discrimination and corruption have been issues since the founding of our republic. The framers of the U.S. Constitution knew this when they wrote “in order to form a more perfect union” — that “we the people” would have evolve and grow in order to preserve our democracy and freedom.

For the most part, in fits and starts, we as a people have evolved.

There have been many dark days, of course, from the Civil War to McCarthyism and more, but we seemed to emerge from all of those crisis a little wiser, albeit wounded. We seem to be on the precipice of another such crisis, as authoritarian forces seek to consolidate power and overrule the will of the people.

Despite everything you read about division, we as a people actually agree on a lot of things, even on what seem to be controversial subjects:

On abortion, somewhere between 70 & 80% of people think it should be legal to some extent.

On gun safety, something like 80% of people support common sense laws such as red flag, universal background checks and waiting periods. Heck, a majority support banning military style, high performance rifles and high capacity magazines.

On immigration, most people in U.S. (as ancestors of immigrants) want to see reforms, but not the end of legal immigration.

I could list more issues on which there is broad agreement among the public, yet opposite action by state and federal government, from drug pricing, to antitrust, the minimum wage and more. Taken as a group, most of us want the same things, but somehow our government never seems to be able to deliver.

Despite so much agreement on so many issues, opposition to what most of us want is being driven by extreme forces — often those with obscene amounts of money — in the opposite direction of what the public at-large wants. Meanwhile, there is a concerted effort to push divisive issues as a means to further divide people and distract us from focusing on what is really going on.

Too often, we can’t even agree on basic facts (the madness when it comes to issues like whether the Earth is flat, whether vaccines are safe and effective and so on). We scream at each other on social media. The Internet has created a chaos of facts and non-facts — and sometimes it can be difficult to sort credible sites from those that publish false information, either to make money or for more sinister reasons.

Mainstream media — largely because of financial pressures to drive audience instead of facts— is lost, chasing clicks and eyeballs. Local media is literally starving to death, as the local revenue model has been blown up — digital ad monopolies have strangled revenue. No longer can most of us afford to cover local meetings.

There are no easy or quick fixes for these issues, sadly.

So, it starts with us, average people.

We need to stop talking past each other — or worse deciding that those who disagree with us are somehow less human. It reminds me of when my kids were in middle school and I offered one piece of advice “everyone is just as full of crap as you are — and they’re afraid people will figure it out.”

When it comes to friends and family with whom we have political differences, we have to remember the ties that bind us, the memories, the things we have in common. And it is important to remember that your Trump-loving uncle or your deep blue niece are still family, even if you don’t align politically.

We used to be able to “agree to disagree” to work past those areas of conflict and focus on shared beliefs. Maybe this holiday season, we can work on that, if even only within our own families.

I’m not saying that these issues don’t matter — they do. But we have to stop dehumanizing those we disagree with. We may not be on the same page, but we’re all still humans, entitled to our opinions and thoughts. We can disagree, but we must find room for respect.

A lot to ask, I know. But we need to start somewhere.

May you find peace and contentment this Christmas and may 2024 be a better and happier New Year for all of us.

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