An NRA supporter says: “Only more guns will make us safe from guns!” A gun-control advocate says: “The more guns there are, the higher the chances of being shot!”
A Democrat says: “This administration is the worst thing that has ever happened to the US!” A Republican says: “This administration is our opportunity to change the country for the better!”
An environmentalist says: “We must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels because mankind is destroying the Earth!” A coalminer who has been out of work for years says: “We have too many rules and regulations that cost money, but make no sense!”
The pro-choice advocate supports Roe v. Wade because he sincerely believes that every woman should have the right to make the choice that is best for her and that the right to choose is guaranteed by the Constitution. The “right to life” advocate wants Roe v. Wade to be overturned because she sincerely believes that abortion is tantamount to murder and that murder is both a crime and a sin against God.
MORE! LESS! YES! NO!
Is there any way to bring agreement to such opposing viewpoints? On the issues on which people hold such diametrically-opposed views, probably not. People, however, are not one-dimensional, no matter how much we may think them to be. Even those people who stand on the “other side” of your favorite hot-button issue have a multitude of other concerns – concerns of which you may be totally unaware. In fact, it may even be that you and those “other people” might agree on some issues.
You will never know unless you talk.
The coalminer may be anti-abortion and his vote in the 2016 election may have been based on his anti-abortion and pro-job positions. As well as wanting a job, however, he also wants a strong union, because the early fights to secure union rights happened in the coal fields. He is opposed, therefore, to so-called “right to work” laws, which is likely the same position taken by the pro-choice advocate who supports Roe v. Wade. If the coalminer and the pro-choice advocate insist on simply repeating their “pro-life/pro-abortion” positions, they may never find agreement. If, however, they realize that they hold the same position on “right to work” laws, they may find common agreement and an issue on which they can work together.
The environment is also an issue of potential common ground.
The man who belongs to the NRA and fervently believes that the Second Amendment gives him the right to openly carry a shotgun into Quik-Trip while he gets a soda may also believe that it is Man’s responsibility to be a responsible steward of “God’s Good Earth” and he is against the recent decision to pull the US from the Paris Accord. If a Republican pro-NRA activist and a Democratic pro-choice advocate talk about guns or abortion, they may come to blows. If, however, they talk about saving the national parks, they may find that they are in agreement on that issue and that agreement may lead them to actually find each other to be colleagues and fellow humans. [Remember that Teddy Roosevelt – who championed “hard living” and “he-man” virility and was a gun enthusiast who advocated “carrying a big stick” – was also a conservationist and advocate for national parks. (In a strange twist, he also provided the inspiration for today’s teddy bears, another example of media influence: see Theodore Roosevelt Association for the full story, a side note that might better have been placed in our earlier post “Real News” or “Fake News.”)]
Finding common ground and a common cause holds the potential for the future. Our American society and our American form of government are based on common causes. When the several states joined in confederation, it was precisely because of issues and goals held in common. When we lose the ability to see that commonality, we will lose the bond that holds us together.
Cultural Crossroads was created to study and reveal the commonalities among cultures and groups and to commend those commonalities, while also celebrating cultural diversity. Our diverse cultures, religions, and political viewpoints meet at the crossroads of our common ground. That common ground is the place of promise – the place where we meet as one people.
We encourage you to talk with someone of a different viewpoint and find the common ground where you stand together. You will both find expanded ideas – and perhaps a new friend.