Our Fight is Not Against Each Other
By Micah Vandenboom
Whenever our nation faces a tragedy, it seems the same pattern repeats. Members of both parties take to the internet and media in order to detail why those who disagree with them are responsible for the calamity. In the pall and emotional turmoil, we lambast one another and malign each other’s motives and character. Meanwhile, we continue despising each other, the victims are left ignored, and the crisis never gets solved
It’s obvious to anyone who has been on Twitter lately or seen the state of the news media that we have a problem. Many people have commented on the caustic nature of our public discourse, and they’re right. From social media, to the news media, to our lives more generally, the way we speak to and about one another—particularly those with whom we disagree—has become nothing short of corrosive. But social media is not the problem, it is just a tool that can be used for good and nefarious purposes alike. However, the venomous Twitter threads and soundbites online make it difficult to ignore the much deeper crisis we are facing as a society.
We are all engaged in a war of ideas and we are doing it very badly. As we strive to win this battle for the culture, we’ve missed a key point: Our fight is not against each other, it’s against bad ideas. And the truth of the matter is, we keep undercutting our mission because we are confused about our actual enemy. Rather than focusing our attention on attacking the actual problems, we are easily bogged down with fruitless exchanges. We are not changing anyone’s mind and we make it harder for ourselves to accomplish anything productive.
Regardless of what issue we are trying to address, it will never be solved until we reevaluate and adopt a more effective strategy. People who have bad ideas are not our enemy, it is the bad ideas themselves that are the problem. We will never be able to overcome destructive philosophies by adding our own vitriol and stubbornness to the chaos.
When people with unhelpful views lash out with malice and call their opponents names, or try to manipulate situations, it is natural to get angry and want to reciprocate. But we will be grinding our wheels until we recognize that people caught up in bad ideas are like prisoners of war that the true enemy has taken captive.
In his book Strength to Love, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. writes:
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
We can only rid ourselves of the causticity that plagues our public discourse by countering the vitriol with a different tone.
We do not have to sit by passively or surrender our consciences. It is a battle, and we should treat it as such. Bad philosophies can do significant harm while good ones elevate the human spirit and cause people to flourish. But the fight we are in matters far too much to undermine it by adding our own venom to the mix. We should fight smart, not dirty.
Our job is to stand up unashamed for what we know is right, roll up our sleeves, and get to work crafting solutions that will help to rectify the damage done by bad ideas and build a better future. We must test our motivation. Is it just to be right and prove someone else wrong? Or is it that we truly believe what we are advocating for is good and will help our community flourish? When our motives are pure, we must speak the truth in love, even when we suffer consequences. We need to build relationships and treat people with respect, even when they disagree. Let’s be known for helping people and pursuing justice even when it is inconvenient. Let’s be cunning and clever, but innocent of wrongdoing. Act justly, be compassionate, and be humble. Do not be overcome by the darkness, but overcome darkness with good.
Micah Vandenboom is an Associate at The Resolute Group. She is a recent political science graduate from Arizona Christian University.