Hurricane damage unity tragedy put politics aside

Tragedy Can Foster Unity if We Put Politics Aside

It’s been a devastating few weeks for America.

Wildfires have ravaged communities across California. The mass murder of 58 people and the wounding of nearly 500 in Las Vegas was a reminder of our vulnerability and the fragility of life. And terrible damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey in Texas, Irma in Florida, and Maria in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will take years to recover from.

Too many lives were lost. Too many lives will never be the same.

Despite all this — or, rather, because of it — it's an encouraging time to be an American. In times of great crisis, we put aside our political disagreements and come together to help those in need.

People from around the world have contributed more than $15 million to help Las Vegas victims and their families. People have stood in long lines to donate blood.

Volunteers have been streaming southward from all over the country to help those impacted by the hurricanes. Donations of food and supplies continue to come in.

I'm proud to say the consumer technology industry, which I represent, has been leading the way in helping these regions get back on their feet, through drones, donations, and innovative apps.

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We can't allow this moment of unity to escape us. Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, we are all Americans —  and we all are human beings moved to action by the suffering we see.

The tragic events of recent weeks prove we can still come together as a nation. We can't afford to wait for another tragedy to force us to reach consensus on other crises we face, from the debt ceiling to the changing American workforce.

Here are three ways we can come together on critical issues:

1.) Resist the polarizing pundits and politicians. Our news media and political system emphasize conflict. But conflict has reached such a fever pitch that the system has actually stopped working. Every day, it seems the media and politicians are trying to persuade us the people on the other side are our worst enemy and their ascension to power must be stopped at all costs.

But it's just not true. Republicans and Democrats are people, not stereotypes. And the narrative of polarization just doesn't stack up with the numbers: According to data from Gallup, far more Americans identify as independent than as Republican or Democrat.

So don't add to the noise. Don't feed the negativity with personal attacks, in person or on social media. Our nation's future relies on our ability to put differing personalities and parties aside and focus on finding common ground on important policy decisions.

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2.) Listen to people on the other side. To reach consensus, we must learn to listen to those who have different opinions. That means varying the sources we seek out on social media and on TV.

We should go out of our way to spend time with people who differ from us — not just in terms of political perspective, but also race or gender identity, and social and educational background. By asking thoughtful questions and carefully considering our responses, both in person and online, we can create a healthier, more nuanced way of carrying out our national conversation.

3.) Take a break from politics and focus on other things that unite us. I've worked in consumer tech for most of my career, a field that, at least explicitly, has little to do with politics. But the reality is that consumer tech — like everything else, from entertainment to education to energy — has a political dimension and is affected by political decisions. I spend much of my time advocating for the tech industry and reacting to policies that impact it.

But that's not all I am. I'm also a husband, a father, and a fitness geek. And the same is true of each and every one of us — we might be a Trump voter, but we're also an "Outlanders" junkie, a wine snob, a sister. We might be a Bernie supporter, but we're also a coffee lover, a son and a sports fan. For every one thing that divides us, hundreds of other things can bring us together.

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As Americans, our political beliefs are part of our identity, but they're not the sum of who we are and what we value. Every American wants a better life for the next generation. We're also compassionate, hopeful citizens who want to help our neighbors.

It may have taken a series of natural and man-made disasters to remind us of that. And there certainly will be some hard conversations about national policy in the coming weeks. But if we can continue to remember that we are all Americans and that we all can come together, we will have done our country a great good.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,200 consumer technology companies, and a New York Times best-selling author. This Fox News piece is used by permission.

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Last Modified: October 17, 2017, 7:22 am

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