Blue. Red. Democrat. Republican. Moderate. Conservative. Liberal. Whatever your political affiliation, I hope you exercised your right to vote on Tuesday. And I also hope you are able to reach across the aisle and congratulate the winner, regardless of whether you voted for him or her. Being civil might seem like it should be a given, but with the amount of name calling, nitpicking, and negative ads occurring in politics these days, civility and politics is no small matter.

But polarizing politics actually isn’t anything new in the United States. Far from it. As far back as our nation’s infancy, the Federalists (led by Alexander Hamilton) and the Republicans, also called Democratic-Republicans (led by Thomas Jefferson) were on opposite sides of the fence on many issues. Nowhere was that division more apparent than Hamilton’s insistence that the federal government create a national bank – something Jefferson vehemently disagreed with. But calmer heads prevailed, and a national bank is exactly what happened. See also

Or what about the volatile topic of slavery in the mid-1860s, which of course led to civil war? Or the Civil Rights Movement and demonstrations over the Vietnam war in the 1960s? No, polarizing politics is NOT new to our country.

But what it seems we’ve largely forgotten is the importance of reaching compromises on divisive issues, something our Founding Fathers were able to accomplish. One key to doing that, I think, is to really LISTEN to what people of an opposing view have to say. We seem to think that listening is the same thing as agreeing, when it isn’t! You can listen to someone without agreeing! But in listening, and not immediately launching into arguments or name calling, we can begin to understand where someone of differing political views is coming from.

Take the immigration issue as a brief example. At first glance, someone against illegal immigration might appear to be a bigot, racist, or worse. But what about the flip side of the coin in which others are very concerned about letting criminals, drug dealers, and worse into the US – and at a time when bombings, shootings, and worse are occurring at an alarming rate? If you are a conservative, can you see how someone might think you’re a racist? If you’re a liberal, can you see that some of your fellow citizens are genuinely worried about who we let into our country? If you have an idea WHY someone feels (and votes) the way they do …. That, it seems to me, is the first step toward compromises and solutions to difficult problems.

Here are a few related thoughts from Myric’s Voting Checklist:

* I will read and work to understand the Constitutions of the nation and my state.

* I will vote logic and facts, not emotion and popularity.

* I will assume all political memes and posts are false until proven otherwise with solid fact.

* I will neither gloat nor whine about the results.

That’s just a few of some real thought provokers.

Read more here:

It’s true our elected leaders could set a better example when it comes to civility! But I also think we as individuals need to look in the mirror because we’re plenty guilty, too. Democrat, Republican, or independent, we’re all Americans first and foremost. That’s something I think we need to remember much more often than we do.