We just celebrated our country’s independence last week, and I can’t remember a time in my 41 years that the celebrations have felt more…meh. I’m not talking about the food and the fireworks and the celebrations, because it’s clear from pictures on social media that there were enough sparklers, hotdogs and corn on the cob to get the nation in a festive mood. But what about July 5th, 6th? Being an American has become synonymous with picking a side and proving your side is the best, and I’m just over it.
It seems to me that instead of being a nation of opportunity, we have become a nation of “either/or.” You are either a liberal OR you agree with everything our current President says and does. You are either a conservative OR you don’t believe people have the right to own guns. You either stand for the national anthem OR you don’t care about our military. You are either Pro-Life or Pro-Choice. You are Democrat OR Republican. The lines are drawn, and they get deeper, darker and more like a canyon every day.
Living in the land of the “free to make our own choices” and the “brave enough to stand up for ourselves” should allow us to feel comfortable to have opinions, thoughts, and values that fall outside of straight political party tickets and platforms. Yet one scroll through social media or a quick flip through the news channels will find our leaders arguing that we should consider party loyalty above all else.
This is SO WEIRD and just not the way we live in any another aspect of our lives. It’s no wonder everybody is on edge all the time. If we applied these same “either-or” principles to anything else for which we have thoughts and opinions, it would just be ridiculous.
Think of it this way:
Imagine that you committed to go to the same restaurant every time you went out to eat. You’ve heard good things about this restaurant and it carries the kind of food you usually eat. The first time you went there you were really impressed. After eating there a few times, you get to know the waiters, you start to become familiar with other patrons and smile and wave. The waiter might even know your order the minute you sit down.
And it’s all very familiar and comfortable. But then the restaurant changes the recipe for one of your favorite menu items, let’s say it’s a cheeseburger. And it’s not nearly as good as the old version, in fact, it’s hard for you to eat it at all—it’s awful. And while the rest of the items on the menu are still your favorites, you just can’t bring yourself to order that cheeseburger again.
A few weeks later, you read a review of another restaurant in town. You’ve heard about this restaurant before—you’ve heard it serves the kind of food that you don’t typically order, and the only people you know that go there aren’t people you like, or maybe one of your friends or family has given a poor opinion of this place in the past. This article you are reading was written by a food critic, one that you respect and admire, and she’s describing the most amazing cheeseburger she’s ever had. One that sounds just like what you would order.
You LOVE cheeseburgers. They are very important to you. You’ve got a few choices: try to convince yourself that the cheeseburger at the first restaurant really isn’t THAT bad and order it anyway, decide that you won’t eat cheeseburgers anymore and just ignore them on the menue…or go try the cheeseburger at the other place?
You’d probably do what most Americans choose to do and go try out the cheeseburger at the new place. Because you can eat wherever and order whatever you want based on your options and preferences at that time. What makes sense to you. What you know you like, and what you don’t.
You don’t have to answer to any of the patrons of the first restaurant why you like or don’t like the other restaurant. Maybe it’s the ambiance, maybe it’s the efficiency of the service…maybe it’s the damn cheeseburger. It could be that your tastes have evolved—there are very few of us that choose to visit McDonald’s as much as we would have liked to when we were 8 years old. It’s completely normal, even admirable, for palates to change and be more discerning as we experience more variety and have access to different experiences.
Even if you decide you really LIKE the new restaurant, the first restaurant can still be your favorite. You don’t have to stop going there or ordering from their menu because you don’t like their cheeseburgers. You also don’t have to like their cheeseburgers and accept them as the gold standard just because you like the restaurant.
You wouldn’t feel compelled to argue with a friend that your favorite restaurant had the best cheeseburgers when she liked the ones at the new place, because you would know the truth and know that your friendship was more important than your relationship with the owner and patrons of the restaurant. And, maybe you have different ideas for what makes up a good cheeseburger to begin with!
If you found out one of your friends didn’t even LIKE cheeseburgers…well, you wouldn’t block them from all your social media accounts, right? You wouldn’t stop talking to them, or start talking about them to the other patrons at the restaurant, would you? Because that would be crazy…for the LOVE, it’s just a CHEESEBURGER!
My point here: If we expect fluctuations and variations and changes in something as simple as our food preferences, why don’t we consider it admirable when we (or our friends) have differences in something as complex as our political system? In what our leaders say and do, and whether or not we agree with all or part or none of it?
Now…imagine if we chose our political affiliations the way we choose what restaurant to go to. For me, it would be like this: “Blue” menu is serving up some great support for the LGBTQ community, which I am definitely for…but their service isn’t very reliable and they can’t seem to get their stuff together. The “Red” menu has great plans to help small business owners, which is awesome…but the person running the restaurant is a loose cannon and treats his staff like crap.
Craziness. I can’t think of anything else like it here in America.
Why do we treat our affiliation with political parties as if we need to order off a certain “menu” of choices when we didn’t create the menu in the first place? Is it because we are afraid of what our fellow “party patrons” will think? Are we afraid that if we admit that there are goods and bads in everything, including political parties, that it will make us unpopular…or be a threat to our identity?
No wonder we’re grumpy. We’ve become a nation of hungry citizens, forced to order off of menus that don’t represent our values, our ethics or our morals in their entirety…and we’re allowing our ourselves to believe that the crap that we’re being handed is completely fine, or that we didn’t really feel that strongly about it in the first place. Neither of those options is satisfying, and everyone stays hungry. Which then turns us into a nation of hangry citizens—edgy, discordant, easily annoyed and ultimately unable to think clearly.
Here’s something revolutionary: you don’t have to choose from one menu. Demopublican. Republicrat. Independent. Not red, not blue…but purple. Figure out what shade of purple you want to paint yourself so you can stay true to your preferences, your core values, what you know to be the truth without coloring it red or blue first. Not “either/or,” but “yes/and.”
The most revolutionary idea about choosing to be purple? It’s the truest expression of the independence our nation celebrated just a few days ago. Even with the historical faults of our founding fathers (and I recognize there are SO MANY FAULTS), the idea of freedom from persecution, from oppression, the idea of a people being free to make their own choices…it’s right there in the declaration of independence. Not Republican Red, not Democrat Blue. Profoundly, perfectly…purple.
Friends, you can always order off another menu than the one at your favorite restaurant. Don’t convince yourself to go along with policies, with ideas, with values just because they’re on a certain platform’s “menu.” It’s okay to agree with Republicans, Democrats, AND Independents that are trying to move the needle toward what you feel is the best future for our nation. It’s okay to be purple.
Even if you don’t like cheeseburgers at all.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you decided you’re more purple, or solidly red or blue? Leave me a comment!