And now for something completely different...

So, this is America in the 21st Century. Call me old-fashioned, but when I was growing up back in the day, this country was a major source of pride for most of its citizens. Sure we had problems. Things like wealth inequality, racism, gender supresion, international threats and nukes were just the tip of the iceberg. And regardless of which side you landed on these problems, we could all at least come together around the holidays and have some fun.

Whether it was the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day or whatever, the people in our communities had a mutual respect for each other, and that was good. Of course, everyone of us had that weird Uncle Willie or odd Aunt Lilly who would always say the wrong thing or insult somebody by accident and start the drama. But it usually only lasted a couple of hours, or at a maximum, the rest of the day. We never had to worry about starting something that couldn't be un-done. We never had to have pre- arrainged agreements to keep from discussing certain things.

Some topics were taboo, sure. Most people don't like talking about money or religion or race. I get it. But back then we were all much more concerned about other people's feelings or positions. Plus, we had much thicker skin. We also knew who we could share things with and who we should keep quiet around. And we gladly did so. I'm not sure if we did it to keep the peace or we didn't want to hurt their feelings. But I'm fairly positive that it wasn't because to share our thoughts on a subject might set someone off or out of a concern that the opinion you shared might cause folks to think bad things about you.

One thing that I'm sure we all did agree on we're facts. Growing up we were certain that what adults told us was true. We knew that our friends and family didn't lie about things or spout crazy claims. Yeah, we all had the jerk cousin who would say the weird stuff that we would end up asking our parents or siblings to explain later, but he usually got into a lot of trouble for doing it. The good news was that we knew he was a freak and just let it go.

Another thing I'm sure that didn't cause many problems for people was the respect we had for one another's opinions. My family used to have some humdinger disagreements, but I never saw my Aunts or Uncle's, my Grandparents or my Parents go after each other to the point that we got worried they might lose respect for each other. That couldn't happen.

It never crossed our mind that somebody might say something that couldn't be taken back. Would the different sides of the family storm out and quit speaking to each other? Would they come to blows? Would this be the last time we all got together and celebrated Christmas? I'm sure it probably happened to somebody somewhere. But not very often, and never to the people I knew.

Today, I know people who have been family members who were very close, and others who have been friends for years, that won't talk to each other now. People that say really horible things about people they used to share holidays with. People who have cut others out of their lives altogether. All because they can't agree on basic facts. It's mind blowing. But even worse than that, it's soul shattering.

Folks, we really need to take a deep breath. Do you really believe that just because someone is not the same political party as you has some hidden agenda? That just because a person voted for the other candidate that they are really out to destroy this country? That the person you have known most, if not all, of your life should now be hated to the point where you think they are Evil? That's scary.

And, I'm sorry to be the one that has to tell you, but it says more about you than it does about them.

Most Americans are pretty busy these days. As such, an awful lot of people only have time to get their information from the major news networks. Folks don't have the time to sit down and read a newspaper with their morning breakfast. Or leasurely enjoy a magazine in the evening. They have commitments and priorities, or kids and spouses that control their time. I can't tell you the last time I went over to a friend or family's home and spotted a magazine or newspaper they had subscribed too. We just don't consider this important anymore. But, it is.

When you only get information from one place, as trusted as it may be, you run the risk of missing out on the various different sides of things. Different perspectives are amazing. When you don't see something from a different view than your used too, then you risk losing touch with the ability to see something new at all. If you only see things one way then you have missed out on the rest of the story. And there is always so much more to these stories than just one side. It's like with anything in life, if you look to closely, like only one news source, then you only see trees, not the whole wonderful forest.

With only one source of information, you run the risk of being manipulated. Of losing your natural empathy. It is entirely possible that you are being fed propaganda. For sure you are shutting off your natural curiosity, your ability to relate to others, your willingness to hear opinions that are different than yours. Any number of things that can, and will, only benefit you or work to your advantage later. Never, ever, get your information from just one source.

It just makes sense to listen to, read, or talk to different sources of information. Don't you teach your kids to make up their own minds? Don't you want your family to be able to critically analyze facts? Don't you want to bring new information to discussions your having with co-workers? Wouldn't it be great to impress your boss with your ability to relate to others on whatever project you have going? Critical thinking and the ability to empathize with others will only make you a better parent, friend, employee or person. I promise you.

It doesn't take much. All you have to do is identify where it is you have currently been getting your news from. If it is a limited number of sources, than switch it up. If its from TV, change the channel. If its radio, change the station. If its from a specific newspaper, try another. If its the Internet, try a different site. I've heard from smart people, that I trust, that it takes about three weeks to make or break a habit. Give yourself the time it takes to see if this works for you. You can always go back. But, I'm willing to bet it will. It did for me. I truly hope it works for you too. I think everyone should try this. Not just the folks who watch conservative TV, but actually everybody.

Good luck,

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