A front moves into Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach

By Traci DeVette Griggs

It’s a food fight. The two rowdy instigators are on either side of a large crowd. As they hurl their refuse across the room, everyone in between gets covered in garbage. The food fighters shout horrible accusations at each other and soon some in the middle are joining in, taking sides. It’s a melee.

It also seems an appropriate metaphor for the way our country is being portrayed. But don’t buy into it.

There are those who profit from our being angry at each other. The angrier the better. I’m not talking about a conspiracy theory—although I do think history has proven there are those among us who are capable of extraordinary evil—but more ordinary motives.

What’s the old adage? The road to hell is paved with good intentions? There are some people on both sides of the aisle with good intentions who believe they have our nation’s best interests at heart.

But their food fight is tearing us apart at the seams and we are letting them and now even cheering them on, demanding that the filthy fight rage on. We have begun to believe all of the salacious lies and why not? We hear them every day from every direction. We seek them out and devour each delicious slander. We share them with our friends. We yell at our screens, enraged.

Do a quick search on raising money by using emotion and you’ll see that it’s an essential ingredient. And today, anger is the most convenient tool. This is similar to the way that jokes about bodily functions are the comedian’s lowest bar but surest way to get a quick laugh, always handy in case the true comedy fails.

Anyone who wants to gain influence can tap into this low bar of emotion and say something to make us angry. And it works! Clicks, likes and shares all go up. Social media engagement skyrockets. People begin quoting us in news stories. Everyone is talking about us. Donations are flooding in. Yes, we are creating chaos; the story was only half-true, but, oh! The intoxicating feeling!

Elections don’t allow for shades of gray but living in community demands it.  Between now and Tuesday, Nov. 3, we have binary choices and we do have immense issues at stake. This election really is about choosing a vision for this grand American experiment.

But living in the America that comes after Election Day requires us to see our neighbors as we really are. And those people are more similar to us than they are different. Whether you are a devout believer or an agnostic; a proponent for traditional marriage or gay marriage; free market and tax cuts or a more caring and compassionate government. When you sit down with your neighbor with a heart to listen and learn—and I hope you will—you will likely discover that they actually have the same deep desires and yearnings for our country and our communities and families that you do.

Whether that person voted for Trump or Biden, they are likely very similar to you in many of the ways that matter most as we live our lives day to day.  And even if they’re not, you’ll find they have very good reasons for why they believe as they do. How refreshing and interesting to have people in our lives that are very different from ourselves!

So after the elections, let’s hold our elected officials accountable and demand that they stop the food fight. Write letters to your favorite news organizations and let them know we’ve had enough, or just turn them off. We need time to heal and we need to allow our representatives some time to figure things out. And we must get out of the food fight ourselves.

Have a concern? There are processes for that. Your state general assembly is open to you every day they are in session. Your local representatives care what you think.

Not getting the action you want? Gather some friends and press on! This really is the greatest country in the world. Not perfect by any means, but that’s why you’re in it, to make it better. 

Traci Griggs

Traci DeVette Griggs and her husband John are half-time residents of Ocracoke and Raleigh.