According to Wikipedia (such as it is, but this is a pretty good definition), “‘Social issues’ are matters which directly or indirectly affect a person or many members of a society and are considered to be problems, controversies related to moral values, or both.” The list of hot topics in today’s society runs rampant: health care, abortion, human rights, immigration, the homeless, unemployment, bankruptcy, loss of homes, welfare, business and trade scandals, terrorism, pornography, drugs, sexual preferences, child abuse, and addictions, just to name some of them.
Look up the word “social” in the dictionary and the first definition says, “pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations.” Next, search for “issue” and you will find over thirty definitions but the one that most closely fits the bill for this topic seems to be, “a point, matter, or dispute, the decision of which is of special or public importance.” The funny thing is most “social issues” are not friendly and too many people act as if only their view of the matter is the one that is important.
It may be surprising to learn the “social issue” that is of importance to me. I yearn for tolerance, empathy and understanding. I can’t think of a single person whose mind was changed by listening to the mud-slinging political ads, watching debates, or reading op-ed pieces in the newspaper, online, on FaceBook or their friends’ blogs. No one I know changed their vote as a result of the constant barrage of recorded phone messages or any other method people used to try to get their point across during the recent elections. Why can’t we all just get along?
We will never totally agree with each other because we all bring different life experiences, perspectives, upbringings, and religious or other persuasions to the table. But do we really have to agree in order to live harmoniously with one another? Surely there is another way. Clearly, force and/or belittlement are not working. Why not try understanding each other?
I think it is a glorious thing that we are all different. How boring it would be if we really did all think alike. None of us look alike, but should we be treated differently because of that? Hopefully, we have come far enough for people to say, “No.” How about if we have different abilities, interests, skills, intelligence, opportunities, education and socio-economic levels? What if we see different ways of accomplishing the same goals? Is one way inherently better than another? Not in my opinion. Why aren’t we embracing and celebrating our differences? How else will we ever learn about different cultures, religions, ethnic foods and traditions and new ways of doing things if we do not allow people to practice them and to share it with us?
I really like this recent quote by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, among many other titles: “Election results in the U.S. show a lot of losers and a lot of winners. However, what we really need is win-win thinking, empathic listening for understanding and seeking mutual respect and benefits, which will lead to synergy. Synergy means ‘the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.’ Synergy produces 3rd Alternatives, ‘not your way or my way but a new or higher way.’"
A higher way, one, that respects each other regardless of our politics, our religion or lack of it, our education, our experiences and our cherished opinions. Now, more than ever, shouldn’t we be seeking first to understand and then to make ourselves understood? Shouldn’t we pool our collective thoughts and expertise and come up with solutions that work for every citizen? I think it’s time we put “united” back into the United States of America and worked together for our common good.