I’ve never seen politics bring people together, only divide them. However, I’ve seen the power of friendship and decency for my neighbors forge better relationships time and time again.
I think the internet and especially social media has driven people further from their community. It’s so easy to attack, belittle and shame through social media that it has taught us there is no shame in disrespect. There is in fact shame in disrespect. We hide behind the internet now and rarely see our neighbors in person and thus as our allies in the world.
I live in Iowa, where the saying is “Iowa nice” when describing its citizens. Even here and in my own life I’ve seen the power of community crumbling though. I look down the street and see so many political signs and flags that it makes me really despise my own neighbors before getting to know them. So I too am guilty of this culture.
At camp though we are forced to interact, to respect our neighbors and recognize that to look after each other is in both of our interests. At camp we have a chance to build a community and thus we learn to care for one another. We learn respect, compassion and how to resolve our differences maturely. The best camps seek these moments out with intention and even the not-so-great camps still are doing this by the very nature of what it means to be a summer camp.
So my assignment to you and myself is to treat the real world a bit more like summer camp. Get to know your neighbors personally, build a mutual respect no matter your political opinions and be at peace with one another. A meaningful life doesn’t exist online or through our public political propaganda, it exists when we get to know our neighbors and build community together.