Recently, a friend said that my “politics are messed up”.

By that, I understood him to mean that since my values, judgments, and beliefs are different than his, mine are somehow deficient, invalid, stupid, ill-conceived, evil, etc.

I took some time to ponder that statement, and realized that his attitude toward the views of others has become pervasive in today’s atmosphere of political intolerance.

We constantly hear people saying things like “The Koch brothers are evil.”, or “Dick Cheney is the devil”, or “Republicans have no soul”, “Libtards are stupid”, etc.  These, by the way, are actual quotes I copied from postings by some of my Facebook friends from the last couple of days.

We see arguments relegated to name calling, websites such as “Americans against the Tea Party”, “Americans against Republicans”, “Americans against Liberals”, and a thorough lack of civil discourse.  It has become common to dismiss the opinions of others as “messed up” or worse, dismiss others as “stupid”, “evil”, “intolerant”, “misguided”, “ignorant”, etc. simply because those opinions are different than our own.  Never mind that many of those opinions, on both sides, are honestly held, rationally arrived at, and represent a true belief based on our personal values.  We have become a society with zero tolerance for the opinions of others if those opinions are different from ours.

What does it mean for us, as a society, when so many are so intolerant of opposing perspectives that they feel the need to characterize the people holding those differing views as “evil”?

How can we ever reach consensus or compromise positions, when large swaths of our population are so intolerant of opposing views that they truly believe that anyone whose views differ from theirs must be “the devil”?

Let’s be clear.  Evil DOES exist in this world.

But, believing in a different economic strategy, believing that abortion is wrong (or right), believing that guns are good (or bad), believing in God (or not), embracing homosexuality (or not), etc. does not make a person evil.  It makes their beliefs different than our beliefs.

None of us has the ability to actually walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.  We all have different backgrounds, different life experiences, different challenges in life, and different beliefs.  We have developed our views based on those inputs, and they are no more or less valid than anyone else’s views.

What it boils down to, ultimately, is that we are all different.  For the most part, those differences are valid, legitimate, and not harmful.  They ARE real, and the results are an amalgamation of our upbringing, culture, religion, schooling, life experience, career, family, and a million other inputs that are different for every single person on Earth.

I would posit that characterizing those whose beliefs are simply different from our own as “evil” is the epitome of small-mindedness, and is a much worse sin than most others.  It is the grease on which our society is sliding into the abyss of mediocrity and oblivion.

If we, as a society, cannot learn to separate opinions from people, we are in for a very long and rocky decline.

If you see yourself in the words above, you might give some thought to how you participate in future discussions with those whose views differ from your own.  The world might be a better place for it.