Flag_of_the_United_States_(upside_down)A few weeks ago I had coffee and a great political conversation with a friend.

This friend and I happen to sit on opposite sides of the political spectrum.  As anticipated, we disagreed on a number of issues. We also learned from each other and found some common ground.

One thing we agreed upon: no one president (not Bush, not Obama) is able to ruin our country.

The US system has a number of safeguards that protect the nation.  While the role of the president is important and makes a difference, there are serious limits on what they can do. We have checks and balances between the branches of government. We have regular elections in which we vote for who we want to lead us.

So what will ruin America?

We will.
We the people. We are the nation. We are the government.

As much as I do not want to be an alarmist, I think that there are a few ways that “we the people” are damaging the nation.

Allowing Others to Manipulate our Hate, our Fear, and our Greed:There is a danger when we allow our emotions to cloud our thinking and dictate unhealthy behavior. There are powers at work who will gladly manipulate our emotions in order to control our thoughts and actions for their benefit, to the detriment of the nation.  

Unwillingness, or Inability, to have Honest, Thoughtful, and Civil Discussions:We are not excused from basic guidelines of human civility when we enter the realm of politics. Winning a political debate by volume, force, manipulation or deception will only make us a nation of losers.

Tribalism of the Left and the Right:We will not be able to work, or even converse, together if we only surround ourselves with people of the same political camp. There is little hope if we insist on using different news sources and reading different “research.” Minimizing and demonizing the other political camp will lead us all to ruin. 

So what should we do?

I think that it begins the same way that this post began. Get a friend who sits on the other end of the political spectrum.  Have a cup of coffee and a political conversation with them. Disagree with them, but learn from them and find some common ground.