Samantha Weigel

Samantha Weigel

For the past four years, I’ve really struggled with my identity as an American. On Election Day 2020, I found myself asking the same questions I’d hoped we’d have more answers to by now. Alas, like many, I’m stuck with the same uncertainty and prodding confusion of — how did we end up here?

We need to take a hard look in our collective mirror to better understand who we are as a country. One thing that is clear, we are not meeting the needs of everyone. Our nation is so divided, fueled by a two-party system that rewards pitting sides against one another. Our instinct to brand those with differing views as the other, as a lost cause, as lesser than, is a disservice to our collective well-being.

What is the moral fabric of our nation? Do we have shared values and virtues? Why has the aisle grown so vast and our ability to reach across it now a momentous challenge? How is it that we’ve become unable to differentiate between fact and fiction?

First, all is not lost. There is a way for us to move forward. But there needs to be a shift in our collective consciousness and abilities. Early on in my education, I was taught about debunking myths. My educators and community valued instilling in youth an ability to question poignantly and think critically. That’s served me well, if not perhaps led to a bit of pessimism about what I’m told. When was the last time you researched the qualifications of the source of your information?

It’s tempting and easy to fall into the echo chamber, to be reassured by believing perspectives that align with our own views. Our political polarization is reflected geographically, liberals tending to congregate in denser cities while conservative are more dispersed across the country. It makes it more challenging to seek out those with differing beliefs and pulls us further away from fuller understanding.

As a Bay Area native, I still struggle to not just assume the Democratic ideals of my parents and much of my community should be the superior viewpoints in our nation. But half our country believes otherwise. What we do seem to share, is an outright belief that the other is wrong and we are right. We also share a fear of what could happen should our side lose.

So what can be done? Aside from prioritizing more critical thinking skills in our education system and adapting to the challenges of discerning what is true in the age of social media, we need to approach this time with more curiosity and empathy. While fixing the federal system seems like an exercise in insanity at this point, there is progress we can make locally.

We need to bring more diverse perspectives into our conversations. Seek out people with differing experiences and views, then approach them with an empathetic ear and a desire to better understand their circumstances. We also need to start by identifying shared values. I believe we have a shared desire to strive for a more perfect union where opportunities are available to those who want them. We can align our interests to forge strong, healthy and prosperous communities — however you wish to define community.

We can push back against the tendency to fear what we don’t understand or demean with what we disagree. To not would be giving in to the rhetoric of extremist politics. There is a middle ground and we all need to accept that there’s enough people in our country with views that differ from our own — however misguided we may think they are. We have to recognize that compromise is a necessity to unification.

So while I still find myself confused, infuriated, bordering apathetic and fending against hopelessness following the election, I firmly believe there’s a path forward. It has to start local with an eye for broader action. We have to question blanket stereotypes and engage “the other” with an empathetic mind. We should approach tough problems with an interest in better understanding and diagnosing the problem — what needs do you have that aren’t being met? How can we as a community, and hopefully as a nation, meet your interests while balancing our collective well-being?

There is a path forward; and we’re only truly lost when we stop looking.

Samantha Weigel is the communications manager for the city of San Mateo and a former reporter for the San Mateo Daily Journal.

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(20) comments

Ray Fowler

Hello, Samantha

I was in SoCal on family business when your thoughts appeared in print earlier this week. Sorry. But I didn't want to pass on the opportunity to comment even if you your don't see my remarks.

Thanks for a well written op-ed piece. I hope your optimism is infectious... maybe not the best word to use during a pandemic. I agree with you. There is always hope.

I also agree that teaching critical thinking and accepting other points of view are steps in the right direction. Unfortunately, that is not happening in our schools. No... I am not wearing a tin foil hat and checking behind every tree for... well, I don't know what I might be seeing behind any trees. But a radical left agenda is being presented in our public schools and diversity of thought is being squelched. That agenda is being pushed primarily by the CTA. Now, don't get me wrong... a leftist agenda is OK for those who believe in those principles, but it is not OK when other points of view are either minimized or ignored... especially in our schools. That leftist agenda will produce a generation of young adults who have been told how they should feel about important issues. They will not acquire the critical thinking and research skills you have suggested as a way to help us navigate the current state of divisiveness.

Thanks (again), and please write more.

Tommy Tee

"Election Officials Nationwide Find No Fraud"

--The New York Times-

Terence Y

New York Times – the poster boy for fake news. Did you expect them to write the truth? BTW, you can continue pacing. North Carolina now in Trump’s column and Georgia on track to be added to Trump’s column after hand recount is conducted. Once PA is added and another battleground state, or more, your great President Trump will serve at least 4 more years.

Tommy Tee

Breaking News: Trump has just won the state of denial.

Terence Y

Breaking News: Tommy Tee has moved permanently to the state of denial. In that state, Mr. Tee can drink as much tea as he wants and it’s always sunny so Mr. Tee can wear a tee all day.

BenToy

I share your thoughts and assessment of the past political climate and hopeful the next 4 years will heal and rebuild the country.

In these last 4 years, have found I no longer could have a decent discussion without it becoming an agreement with those leaning right. ‘They’ just did NOT have the background research, nor the ability to move to the center and discuss their & my background information.

Worse was their inability to provide more points of view for discussion vs the many I brought to the discussion (read 2-4 hours daily from Fox News...Al Jazeera...BBC...Shanghai News...Nikki news...to TRMS)

There will continue to be a great divide and will need that isle chasm to narrow

Terence Y

So, Ms. Weigel, let me get this straight - you didn’t struggle with your identity more than four years ago? What changed? Did you totally buy into the lamestream media push to hate Trump more than you love America? Even though the impeachment hoax was debunked? Even though the Russian collusion hoax was debunked? Even though unemployment was brought down some of the lowest levels in history? So what can be done? The Democrat Party has pushed divisiveness, cheating, and socialist ideas to the extreme and this treachery will serve to push more Americans to reassert their constitutional rights and vote against Democrats (it's already happening). Until Democrats begin to understand that the people they serve are the priority, nothing will change – things will only become more extreme. Am I worried? Not really. America has a habit of rising to the occasion and Americans will take the needed actions to right America. Just make sure you’re also in the right.

Rel

Terence, did you read her article and understand her point of doing research and look outside your bubble? Through your commentary, obviously not.

Tommy Tee

Rel--Terence is reeling after the election results. He's spinning in all sorts of directions.

Terence Y

Uh-oh, Tommy, looks like federal prosecutors are now getting involved in the voter fraud cases in battleground states. You may want to hit the store and buy a few more rugs to handle your pacing. More action to come in the next few days and weeks so it never hurts to be prepared.

Tafhdyd

Terence,

Sorry to debunk you voter fraud hallucination but the star witness in PA fraud case just recanted his story when he found out how much time he would do in prison. Did see that a 28 member panel from the OAS that was invited by the Trump admin to watch the voting as official observers said that the only thing they found unusual was voter suppression and harassment buy Republicans. Like I said, wen you have some real facts come and join the conversation.

Terence Y

Sorry Grandpa Taffy, but Project Veritas has debunked your fake news story. As I said yesterday, you have no credibility. Anyone who spews a Republican turned Democrat party switcheroo nonsense obviously has issues with the truth. And please post comments before you become intimate with Jim Beam. Debunk you voter? Buy Republicans? Wen you have? C'mon man! You're better than that.

Tafhdyd

Terence,

It is good to know that you read the whole comment. I was between fixing dinner and a zoom meeting so I was a bit careless on checking the spelling and spellcheck doesn't find words spelled right in the wrong place. I will admit my mistakes, something that you and your right wing extremists and your orange idol never do.

Terence Y

It’s okay Grandpa Taffy, apology accepted. As you age, you should realize multi-tasking becomes more difficult. Your hunt and peck typing method does lead to more errors. If available, you may want to turn on your grammar checker.

Terence Y

Mr. Kempf - have you passed any recent reading comprehension tests? Obviously not. It’s patently obvious I read and understood Ms. Weigel's points, whereas all you do is rush unthinkingly to comment because you don’t like my words. Instead of a lame attempt to slam me, why don’t you search for debunked and echo chamber and compare them to my comment?

As for Tommy, isn’t it funny he's still trying to project his misgivings onto me? I guess he's scared of possible manual recounts in 30 states, or of the software issues giving thousands of Trump votes to brain-dead Biden, or of the thousands of ballots which only have one brain-dead Biden vote on them, or of the dead people who voted for Biden. I hope fretful Tommy has a rug he doesn’t mind ruining with his daily pacing, because the election is not over.

Tommy Tee

Zero evidence, bro. But here's a key witness on your side.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8929777/Rudy-Giulianis-witness-claims-saw-voting-fraud-convicted-child-sex-offender.html?fbclid=IwAR1vHA0kiQEhzj4Z92eE_mckdQi53VeFyN-2Qid6WIauj0JFGHgtFmr4aiI

Tafhdyd

Terence, You really need to get some mental help before the right wing SCOTUS does away with the great Obama care when it is on the agenda later in the week.

Tafhdyd

Terence,

The problem with your thinking (if you do think) is that you have believed the imaginary world of Trumpism. People don't hate Trump more than they love America as you like to spew every comment, people love America and that is why they can't stand Trump. He is a treasonous liar, conman, cheat and scumbag. Put on your big boy pants and deal with it.

Terence Y

Nice touch with the personal attacks and outrage, Laffy Taffy. You align yourself with a Democrat Party which supports idiot BLM and Antifa goons, socialism, defunding the police, and voter fraud, to name a few, and you lecture me about how these people love America? If that’s love, I hate to see how you treat your family (if they still recognize you). Also, you keep repeating your Republican turned Democrat party switcheroo nonsense that has been widely debunked and you think people take you seriously? I’m sorry, but you don’t have any credibility. Your nightly pal, Johnnie Walker, has compromised you. I’d suggest you deal with it by shunning him and his many close friends until you can return your moral compass to the right path (and maybe get in a better mood).

JustMike650

Tremendous article, thank you!.

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