Will we ever stop arguing?

This ‘Life In Quarantine’ column originally ran on Sunday, July 5, 2020 in the Gaston Gazette.

All Brad H. did last week was ask a simple question on Facebook. He just wanted to know which grocery stores in town were not requiring masks. That’s it. All he was asking for was just a few civil responses.

After three days, he got the opposite. The thread that started with only one question devolved into a thread with one question and 186 responses. Ironically, his hometown only has three grocery stores.

That’s what it’s come to these days. Anything and everything posted in a Facebook group goes downhill in a hurry. One guy commented about how we didn’t have to wear a mask during the swine flu (H1N1) pandemic of 2009, so why are we doing it now? Another person insinuated all of this is a hoax perpetrated by the government because it’s an election year.

You get the picture. In the end, I hope Brad H. got the answers he was looking for. Although, I’m sure he had to sift through a lot just to find it.

That’s how it starts. A basic question turns into a heated debate. Grown adults snipe back and forth on Facebook and Twitter. Both sides do it – poking each other.

I’m sick of the arguing. Quite frankly, I’m sick of it all.

Name an issue. Any issue. Mask versus no mask? Whether or not COVID is real or if it’s a hoax? Or whether or not it’s black lives matter or all lives matter. Stand back and get ready for the opinions to start flying.

It makes me wonder, can the average American agree on anything anymore or have we become the Divided States of America? Let’s just make it easier on ourselves and shorten it to America’s States. No reason to use an adjective anymore.

When was the last time that it felt like we were united as a country? If I had to guess, I’d say it was back on September 11, 2001 – the day our country was attacked by a foreign enemy. Apparently it takes the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history to bring everyone together.

Even Congressional Republicans and Democrats put their differences aside for a few moments that day when they spontaneously burst into song and sang “God Bless America” on the steps of the Capital.

I doubt it’s happened since. I don’t expect them to sing “reunited and it feels so good” anytime soon either.

Today, and pretty much every day since September 11,  Republicans and Democrats haven’t been singing the same tune. Politically, it’s better for them in the long run if they don’t.

Heels are dug in. The flames are fanned. It’s become the old Dave Mason song, on repeat for nearly 19 years: “It’s only you and me and we just disagree.”

Although, now it’s gone beyond civil disagreements. It’s become heated, contentious and mean-spirited.

Seems like everything gets politicized these days. Politicians play to their base, and their talking points reverberate at dinner tables, water coolers and on social media.

It’s also become good for business. Conflict and strife makes for good TV, especially in primetime. The ratings prove it – we love the drama. We love the trainwreck our national conversation has become. Although, calling it a conversation is far too kind. It’s been a national screaming match for a long time.

I know it’s not going to get better anytime soon. There’s always three sides to every story – my side, your side and the truth.

I don’t expect everyone to agree on everything all the time. It all comes down to listening and understanding. Stephen Covey lays it out in his 1989 best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The 5th habit says to seek first to understand, then to be understood. That’s what good leaders do.

But it seems we have a shortage of good leaders these days. Hey, but we seem to have plenty of pundits! They make this cable news circus go ‘round and ‘round.

There’s not a lot of understanding going on in cable news. You can’t solve the world’s problems in a ten-minute news segment. Damn commercials. We’re always out of time.

But one day, we’ll really be out of time. God help us then.

Ben Dungan has been writing about how life has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak. You can email him at [email protected] and read more from him at www.TheBenDungan.com.