Interesting article in The Atlantic about how the image of America that’s portrayed in the media perhaps doesn’t represent the full truth about the direction the country is headed. Honestly, I can believe it. If you’ve watched any news broadcast at all in the last thirty years, you know that negativity, conflict, and fear is what sells.

The whole thing is definitely worth a read, but I’ll highlight one section in particular:

But suppose you accept the idea that America is remaking itself except at the national level. What difference would that make? Here are three areas in which our reporting has changed my mind about what really matters.

First is improving connections, both conceptual and operational. Across the country, millions of people in thousands of organizations are working toward common goals, generally without being aware of how many other people and organizations are striving toward the same end.

The more we traveled, the more parallels and resonances we saw. This public-art project in southern Arizona was like that other one in Maine. This library program in Oregon was like that one in Ohio. This creative public school in California was like that one in Georgia. This conservation effort in Montana resembled others in California, and Louisiana, and Idaho. This “civic tech” project we heard about in Massachusetts was like the ones we learned about in Indiana and in Southern California. Every place had its local features, but together those efforts formed a pattern whose sweep and power can be hard to discern from any single instance.

Recognizing that these emerging networks exist in parallel is important in practical terms, so that people can share examples of success, plus increase the networks’ collective leverage. It matters at least as much in outlook. It’s one thing to work in what you imagine to be a lonely outpost, defending yourself against decline all around. It’s different and more exhilarating to know that you are part of something bigger, and that you are going down a path others have helped blaze.

I think this kind of mindset is beneficial. It’s NOT futile to get out there and do things to try and better your community, or your friends, or yourself. It’s NOT futile to have conversations with people who disagree with you about these hot button national topics. (And if that means you have to AVOID those topics, that’s ok too.) Dan Rather is doing similar work in concert with promotion of his book “What Unites Us”.

I don’t say this to absolve us of the need to confront the problems that we do have. We MUST continue to have those conversations as well, but they don’t NEED to be couched as a zero-sum game, no matter what the political coverage would have you believe. We can build each other up while we go through the messy business of figuring out the compromises needed to actually run a country. We do NOT need to dominate the people who disagree with us in order to keep making the best version of America that we can.