Three issues conservatives need to better understand in the New Year

Last week we rang in the New Year. Out with 2015 and in with 2016. The first thing I realized when I woke up on New Year’s Day was that this year didn’t look any different than the last. We’ve officially stepped into an election year, even though the proceedings have been well under way for some time now. So far, nothing has changed in 2016. Many have made resolutions, and many will probably break them. It happens every year, and with each passing year it becomes increasingly apparent to me that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

But since it’s the beginning of a new year, I want to be optimistic and believe that we, individually and as a country, can make some changes for the better. I want to believe that we can learn how to use social media for good instead of evil; that we can fact check our memes before sharing them; that we can participate in civil discourse instead of the cowardly ad hominem attacks that are so easy to do over the Internet. Most importantly in this election year, I want to believe that we will educate ourselves about the issues of our day and vote with a solid foundation on what it is we’re voting for.

To that end, I going to lay out three particularly hot topics from 2015 that, if we can get a handle on them, might just be able to start us off toward a more unified country in what could prove to be a very contentious year.

1.   Nobody is coming for your guns

If there were one issue that divided Americans in 2015 it would be gun control. With mass shootings, gang violence, and militia wannabes all over the news, our collective hearts cried out, “Enough!” Regardless of the political stance, most of us could come together in agreeing that we want the gun violence to stop. What we disagree on, in large part, is how we go about stopping it.

Many on the left say we should do away with all guns, while many on the right defiantly claim that they will only be taken from their cold, dead hands. I understand the desire to protect the Second Amendment, but I don’t understand the irrational fear some have that President Obama and his henchmen are coming to your house to take your guns out of the racks in your pickup trucks. The President is not calling for that. Not even close. He doesn’t have that power. He is trying to stand up against a lobby that would have you believe assault rifles are necessary and for that, I applaud him. Coming to disarm you and your family, though? That’s not a thing.

2.   Black Lives Matter does NOT mean that other lives don’t

I realized this year just how desensitized I had gotten about African Americans being killed by the police. I was going through my Twitter feed one day and realized that I had skipped over several stories about a black man who had gotten shot by the police in his city. I delved a little deeper and was shocked at how often this had been happening. It’s not that I wasn’t aware; it just didn’t affect my world and me, so I didn’t pay enough attention.

Things finally reached a zenith when I became aware of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and then saw other organizations co-opt the name. I saw #BlueLivesMatter, in support of the police. Also, #AllLivesMatter, which seemed to want to sprinkle fairy dust on everything and call us all automatically equal, like a grade school playground do-over.

Admitting that certain groups are not getting a fair shake and that should be looked at is not taking anything away from the group that has the advantages. Looking at the data and analyzing it through the lenses of an acknowledgement of white privilege will make us all stronger in the end, not weaker. Holding our police force to higher standards of accountability strengthens both the police force and the citizenry.

3.   Our government (including the President) does not have the kind of power you think it does

Granted, in a Presidential election cycle (or any election cycle, come to that) candidates will say just about anything to get you to vote for them. This includes, but is not at all limited to, telling you what the sitting president is doing/has done to ruin the country. They’ll also tell you that if they become president, they’ll do x, y, and z. Sometimes I’m reminded of the class elections in middle school where the candidates promised better school lunches and more recess.

As a citizenry, it’s been our track record in recent debates about politics to not let facts get in the way of a good argument. We’ll argue with one another on Facebook about what the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage means, being unable to see that it gives without taking away anything.

We’ll demand sweeping action on Planned Parenthood without looking at the law of the land. We decide what laws we won’t obey because they somehow offend our religious beliefs, but don’t see that we can’t then expect to keep our civil service job.

The United States is a Federal Republic with three distinct branches of government. No single person can take the kinds of sweeping actions that drive most of us to fear the government so greatly. We’re not Germany in the 1930s and 40s. We’re not the USSR. Due process has its checks and balances. If our forefathers knew anything, they knew safeguards to tyranny.

The year 2016 is going to be very trying in many respects. I’m not going to sugar coat it. But I believe in this nation. I believe in us as a people. If we educate ourselves, hold our elected officials accountable, treat one another with respect and decency, then we’ll be fine. We’ll be just fine.

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