Bridging The Divide

Lord knows the internet doesn’t need another opinion on all the craziness happening lately. But let me just say that I’m tired. My heart hurts, my soul is heavy, and I suspect that probably goes for most who will be reading this. If I’m being honest, it’s not entirely because of the actions of those who marched in Charlottesville. By and large, we know that hate exists in this world, and we know that it’s wrong. My brokenness stems from the arguments and division that have arisen from those incidents, particularly on social media and around the countertops and kitchen tables of America. It honestly feels like this country is more divided than it has been in a really long time.

That’s particularly difficult for me to swallow, because I make my living as a musician. That means I get to perform for all sorts of people in all sorts of places. Just in the last year, I’ve shared my songs with folks in Canada, Germany, Austria, and from coast to coast in the United States. People of many different races, religions, and political affiliations.

I’ve always been of the belief that as human beings, we have more in common than not. Music has often offered me a connection point to sit down and have a cup of coffee with someone that I might not ordinarily run across in my everyday social circles. I usually listen a lot more than I talk when I’m meeting people out on the road. One exception to that rule is when someone starts to bash one side of the political spectrum or the other. I always tend to stick up for the other side.

I’m proudly Independent when it comes to politics. I have been since my teenage years; during that period of my life, I tried on two or three of those political “hats”, and found that they didn’t fit me very well. The “LEFT VS RIGHT” or “REPUBLICAN VS DEMOCRAT” arguments and confrontations, however you want to frame them, are difficult for me to understand. I always feel sick to my stomach when it really gets going. What it boils down to at the end of the day is “US VS THEM.” Pick our side, because the other side is WRONG AND BAD.

It’s such an easy trap to fall into. Human nature is to compartmentalize and draw lines. It’s what helps us make sense of the world, and sometimes, we need to do it. But honestly, I think we often lose sight of the fact that we’re all human beings. And depending on when and where you’re born, and how you grew up, the world view you end up with as an adult is likely to be unique. And that’s okay. It doesn’t have to fit neatly into a box.

We’re dealing with an extremely complicated set of issues. When we hear about things like Charlottesville, it’s discomforting and frightening, for any number of reasons. But, human nature being what it is, the first instinct when faced with that discomfort is to compartmentalize. Who’s on my side? Where are my allies? Unfortunately, that very quickly leads to ugliness. It leads to shouting without listening. In my news feed this week, I’ve seen so much shouting. I’ve done a lot of it myself, and I’m not innocent. The temptation is so strong, but I’m so tired of it. Yelling into the void isn’t going to fix a damn thing.

So, here I am. Tired, and worried, and looking for hope. Wanting to believe in the goodness of my fellow man and woman. It shouldn’t be this difficult. We can all agree that the beliefs of white supremacists like those who marched in Charlottesville are unacceptable. So let’s start there. Before we run off and start drawing our own lines to talk about statues or counterprotesting or politicians or ANYTHING ELSE…

Let’s start by stopping with the name calling. Let’s start by agreeing to listen. Let’s start by taking a moment before we assume that the opinions and beliefs of others are lesser than our own because they are from a different generation, or wear a different type of clothes, or come from a different latitude. Let’s talk to each other.


This blog post is inspired by the music, words, and actions of Jon Foreman. Please consider reading what he has to say as well.

About Brian Keith Wallen

Singer-songwriter and guitarist from Indiana. Proud dog dad.
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2 Responses to Bridging The Divide

  1. Tom says:

    I’m in agreement and I think you nailed the human nature aspect of it very well, Brian. I’d only add that it’s a hard world to make sense of, sometimes and there are plenty of folks/forces who seem to delight in divisiveness. They love to feed into the hysteria via every possible pipeline as we struggle to find a footing. It seems to come at us from all directions. I figure that if there’s such a hard sell being thrown at the entire population, there has to be some ulterior motive behind it. And, being the cantankerous old coot that I am, I take the whole bombardment with a whole bag of salt, try and do a little homework to get at the truth and move on. Nobody gets their mind changed by an argument on social media anyway. Still, it makes me a little sad for the divisiveness and a little queasy for what it may mean for the future.

  2. You are right on, Brian. Well said.

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