Editorial: Violet Coloured Glasses
Trent Ernst, Editor
The American election is finally over, and we have at least six months before the whole thing starts over again. (When Obama tweeted “four more years,” he was talking about how long the campaign lasts….) In the aftermath, there’s been a lot of analysis and consideration, hand-wringing and high fiving. While I don’t pay too much attention to American politics (I need a crib sheet to remember if the Democrats are the anti-Christ and the Republicans are the Zombie Apocalypse, or vice versa), there was a memo that made the round for ten minutes on facebook a couple days ago that caught my attention.
If you know much about the American Political system, you know that the way it works is there is an electoral college that is voted on, who then vote on the president. Rather than each electorate voting for their area, though, the majority of states have a first past the poll system. Meaning if there are 10 electoral districts in, say, Wyoming, and six of those elect a republican elector and four elect a democratic elector, all ten vote republican.
During the election season, this meant that the language around the voting system degenerated, once again, into discussions of red states vs blue states. Republic vs. Democrat. Right vs. left. Good vs. evil.
Such discussions create a polarizing effect. I’m right, you’re wrong. My candidate is savior of truth justice and the American Way, while yours is known for doing unspeakable acts with mom’s apple pie.
This American Life recently ran an story about the American Election focusing on this very thing, looking at sisters who no longer spoke to each other because on had the gall to vote for the other guy, looking at the brother in law who was still welcome to visit his sister’s house, but he would have to bring his own food to the BBQ, because his political views were not the same as his sister’s husband’s.
Even my Facebook stream has become dichotomized, with one friend saying that America was now safe for four more years, while another said they were planning on being physically ill for the same time frame. Left, right. Black, white. You, me. Us, them.
Which brings us to the meme, that lasted all of a few hours a day or two after the election, when some…radical, some pot-stirrer created a political map not by which way the state voted, but by which way the population voted. Instead of having a map with blue stripes in the northeast and southwest and red down the middle, the map was shades of purple. Some lighter, some darker, but most a fairly even balance between red and blue.
In a discussion so polarized as the American political election, the truth was somewhere in the middle.
Which brings us back to Tumbler Ridge, and the on-going saga being played out on the provincial and federal stage about the fate of the Temporary Foreign Workers, and two conversations I had within just a few minutes of each other. In one, talking to a union rep, I was presented with the image of a group of what amounted to slaves, forced to live in camps, never able to get out and interact and socialize with anyone not employed by the mine.
In the other discussion, I was told that the miners would be encouraged, nay, forced, to get out and socialize, to learn English and to become active members in this town.
And the contrast was so … extreme. So polarized. So much like the election we just witnessed down in the states.
And like that map our troublemaker drew, I expect that the truth will be somewhere in the middle. That it won’t be as binary as it was made out to be. That it’s not the big bad company/union coming to enslave/exploit these people for their own political agenda.
Unfortunately, the middle ground only gets bigger when both sides pull farther apart, so finding the truth in there becomes ever more difficult. And I can’t help but think that a lot of time could be saved if someone were to just pick up a phone and give the other a call.
As for myself, I plan to keep searching that middle ground, because it is there we can find common cause. It is there we can talk, and maybe together we can find a solution that works for everyone, instead of standing on opposite sides and shouting insults at each other.
So, to extend the metaphor, I am trying to look at the world through purple coloured glasses, and hopefully, I’ll be able to see it much better.