History has been rife with moments when resolving conflicts at the point of critical mass could have prevented social unrest, violence, or even war. To many citizens in the United States, it may seem that the time for peaceful resolution is past, but there’s still hope. Those on both sides of the political fence need to start communicating and compromising instead of protesting , rioting, and name-calling. Those actions merely exacerbate the problem.
Key # 1 – Understand What Matters to your Adversary
Throughout this election cycle, both sides used negative ads to discredit their opponent. Statements made during the televised debates were increasingly derogatory and followers in the two camps developed an intense dislike for the opposing candidate. Worse yet, these actions undermined the respect that Americans had for the nominees and their parties. With this contentious climate, “experts” believe that voters made their choice based on emotions, not rational thought. I disagree.
Anger is an emotion that is sparked by underlying issues. You can’t just create it. There has to be a root cause, a simmering fuel that requires igniting. Clinton and Trump didn’t create the insecurity and distrust Americans were feeling prior to the election; it was already there. As politicians, they recognized this and lit the match to start the fire. There was plenty of fuel for those flames to grow into a full blown inferno.
Students and others are protesting that President Trump is going to infringe on personal freedoms and increase racial tensions, but 50% of the country voted for him. The real question these young people should be asking is, “What matters to your adversary?” Trump supporters are not evil orcs from Mordor. They’re Americans with real concerns. Understand what those concerns are instead of spouting useless platitudes or getting arrested for a cause you may not believe in four years from now.
Key # 2 – Stay Calm and Don’t Shout or Threaten
Angry words and hostility never produce positive long-term results. It could be argued that these tactics are actually what won the election for Trump, but again, he did not create the anger. It was already there. The problem now is that those negative emotions have been redirected towards each other. I’ve heard far too many stories in the past week about friends and family members arguing and even threatening each other because they voted for the “wrong” candidate.
I’m a Democrat and I voted for Hillary. This afternoon, I played golf with one of my closest friends, who happens to be the Chair of the Republican City Committee in one of the communities in Central Mass. He voted for Trump. We didn’t argue, fight, call each other names, or threaten to cut ties over the election. Instead, we discussed the issues our country faces and discovered common ground in our belief systems.
All Americans want the same things: good jobs, healthy families, security. President Trump has a roadmap with bullet points many disagree with, but there are checks and balances in place to ensure that what he does is still the will of the people. He’s not God, a king, or the ultimate authority. The wall may not get built. Health care will change but won’t go away. Immigration is constantly being reformed. Your loved ones will never forget the angry words you say to them. Consider that carefully.
Key # 3 – Look at the Present Situation, the Past is Past
The election is over. Sure, there’s still the “official” delegate vote on December 19, but thinking that will change the result is unrealistic and very dangerous for this country. A reversal of the vote at this point will cause an outright civil revolt, which is a no-win situation for all of us. The past is the past. You can continue to gripe about it or you can accept the outcome, move on, and make peace with your neighbors. It’s been an ugly process, but it was just an election, not the Apocalypse.
This is the most difficult key in conflict resolution. Human beings have a tendency to hold grudges and carry resentments. We saw it with the last administration and look at where we are as a result of all that negativity and anger. President Obama spent eight years defending his citizenship status and religious beliefs because they were used as talking points during his first election. If we spend the next four years focused on Trump’s philandering or Hillary’s emails we won’t get anything positive accomplished.
Review the first three keys before moving on to the fourth. Understand the issues that drive your adversary’s anger. Stay calm and have a rational discussion about those issues. Leave the past behind and look forward from today. Practicing these principles will give you the ability to work together with those you may not agree with and realistically make this country the great nation it is intended to be.
Key # 4 – Compromise and Don’t Hold Grudges
Now that you’ve achieved the spiritual state necessary for moving forward, try to find some common ground with your rivals on the other side of the political spectrum. I’ve yet to find anyone who’s 100% in agreement with all the policies of Trump or Hillary. In my round of golf today, my Republican friend and I found that we agree on Second Amendment rights and eliminating government handouts, but differ on immigration and global trade policies. Neither of those affect our friendship in any way.
Colin Powell once said, “Just as they did in Philadelphia when they were writing the constitution, sooner or later, you’ve got to compromise. You’ve got to start making the compromises that arrive at a consensus and move the country forward.” This is where we have fallen short. For the past eight years we’ve had a President and a Congress at odds with each other, consistently refusing to compromise.
What started out as spirited debate became a political war of attrition that imprinted itself on the general population. That’s why we’re so polarized as a country now. At this point, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. We are all guilty of promoting the hostility between left and right. If you don’t believe that, spend a little time going through Facebook posts from the past six weeks.
Key # 5 – Put Everything on the Table (No Avoidance)
I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t hang out with Donald Trump in a social situation if given the choice. His moral compass and belief system just don’t match mine. I will, however, give him the respect due the office of President of the United States, as I have done with all presidents that have come before him in my lifetime. I will also, as an American, continue to vote my conscience, and work towards peace between political parties and abroad in the world.
Those are my cards. You are welcome to put yours on the table in response to this post, which I expect will initiate some lively conversation. The election is over. It will happen again in four years. Do we want to duplicate the emotionally draining events we just went through or do we want to focus on the issues next time? 45% of Americans did not even vote this year. That’s a real problem. My guess is that most of them stayed away because they’re tired of hearing us fight amongst ourselves. Let’s stop doing that, please.