The last 15 years or so, especially the last year, made me feel hopeless and helpless about our politics, the polarization of our country and our future. Two things the last week improved my outlook.
For horrific reasons, one is the attitude of the “kids” from Parkland, Florida who, even while enduring the shock and tragedy of their last week, have appeared on TV not to get their 15 minutes but to make a serious point — if you adults aren’t going to take action, get out of the way.
The second was a focus group convened for “60 Minutes” and moderated by Oprah Winfrey, a focus group of adults who demonstrated the polarization of our politics but also the desire to get along.
I’m sure all of you have seen those Parkland teenagers on camera the last few days. Whether YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter made them media-ready or, more likely, the seriousness urgency of their mission — to make theirs the last mass school shooting in our country — they were as impressive a group as I’ve seen in a long time.
To even have the presence of mind to start organizing protests, marches and web pages, in the aftermath of watching their friends murdered, is amazing. To articulate themselves as they have is unbelievable. Which gives me hope.
“60 Minutes” did a focus group a few months ago where they brought seven Trump voters and seven non-Trump voters together to talk about their differences. That was a good show. But what happened after the show is what brought Oprah and CBS’ cameras back:
Those 14 people stayed in touch, debated things on a private Facebook page and got together for activities, church or other reasons. They got closer and began to understand each other a little better. Not the politics so much but to see that those people they dislike so much — be they Trump voters or non-Trump voters — are people just like they are, with a different outlook on our society and our politics but with the same hopes and dreams for our country and their families.
One Trump guy even said at one point “we disagree on 80 percent of things but that means we can find common ground on 20 percent.” Would that our Congress adopted the same outlook. A non-Trump voter said the aim isn’t to “denounce” Trump, the aim is to get adult leadership and not the Tweet-first-and-learn-the-facts-later approach we all live with now.
Whether those Parkland kids get what they want — common sense gun control and safe schools — now isn’t really the measure because they still have to convince the “adults” in Congress to take action. The measure is when they get to be voting age and their generation is in charge, things just may change. And I haven’t felt that way lately.
But now, I have hope.