This week, my new book, "Our Broken America: Why Both Sides Need to Stop Ranting and Start Listening," is out, and I've been spreading the word that simply screaming at people in the other party won't solve problems. Many are finding my take — that it's OK to disagree, just do so agreeably — refreshing. Others believe that we must fight back, even harder. My belief is that the cynicism of the latter group has overridden their faith in our country and our system.
It's easy to look at the current polarized political environment and become cynical. One side yells at the other; the other yells back; no progress appears to be made. It's easy to believe that our nation is in trouble and we are in a downward spiral due to the divisiveness and rage that both sides show one another.
A poll released last December by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research reported that the vast majority of Americans (86%) believe our polarized political environment is a threat to our nation. If the threat were external, we might be able to join together and work to defeat the outside enemy. But internal strife is harder to battle. That's because, by battling one another, we cause the chasm to grow bigger still.
Even though our economy is growing rapidly, and unemployment is low, many Americans still feel an underlying unease with where we are as a country. In response, they tend to blame the other political party. Their feelings drive their criticism, and they choose facts to fit their narrative. It's a blame-the-other-side-first mentality.
Let's take the Green New Deal, the genius marketing plan put forth by the far left. While it may sound wonderful (who doesn't like green, new and deal?), it is just the latest example of a proposal to increase government control by wrapping it in an attractive name. But, the truth is, it's not a proposal to save our planet. It's a proposal to change our economy.
On July 10, David Montgomery wrote an article published in the Washington Times that referred to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and encapsulated what's going on.
The story was titled "AOC's Chief of Change: Saikat Chakrabarti isn't just running her office. He's guiding a movement."
According to Montgomery's story, Chakrabarti recognized that the Green New Deal was not about climate change but instead thought of it as "a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing."
While it might be nice for those on the far left to dream up large government interventions that can be marketed as solutions to our problems, they won't work.
Every time the government tries (and fails) to make massive change, it also moves to take away our freedoms. Government control can happen only when people give up their right of free choice. That's a trade-off I am not willing to make.
Do I wish that I could simply sit back, dream up a great name and hand it off to government to implement? Well, that might be nice, but it does not work. Then I remember that the price of my freedom is to shoulder my responsibility.
While many on the right will call liberal-left plans crazy, they might be smarter to call them naive, sad or ill-informed. That's because dubbing a plan crazy can easily be perceived by the person who devised the plan as a personal attack rather than an argument about an idea.
Our country was built on the belief that God gives individual rights and we loan them to the government. The government is created to serve the citizens. It is not the citizens' duty to serve the government, but it is our responsibility to serve our country.
Many are eager to cast blame for this polarized environment on others. After all, doesn't it make us feel better to blame someone else first? The reality is that 64% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans have few or no friends from the opposite party. We no longer just identify with a party; we believe that our party is the same as our identity.
"Think of it as my party good, your party bad — for both sides," I wrote in "Our Broken America." The challenge is that "this conflating of party with social acceptance and value is making politics more divisive and uncivil, not better."
The reality is that while ranting may make us feel good, it doesn't make us better. We each get to determine if we want to feel good or be better. It's up to us.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.