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‘Disinformation, plain old lies take place of facts, data’

In any community, there always have been, and always will be, areas of conflict and disagreement. These disputes have gotten deeper in the last dozen years or so. As we go through rapid changes in life here, finding areas of common ground is often difficult. At least, it seems to be more difficult than it used to be.

As I observe what this place is now, and think of what it used to be like, I believe that no matter what the base cause of any dispute is here, there is one common denominator that keeps us from looking for answers that would work for the common good, that would have the spirit of compromise that we depended on for decades. That factor is politics.

Because of the rise of the internet, and the 24/7 news cycle, which comes complete with talking heads to spin any point of view, we now live in an age where we are constantly bombarded with political news. It becomes an addiction after a while for a lot of people. It has become far too common to be in a conversation, in person or on social media, discussing anything from history to this year’s hay crop, when someone will tie it to current politics.

It’s this person’s fault or that party’s fault. They will follow up with something they heard from someone on either side of the divide as proof of what they said. Critical thinking and fact checking have become lost arts. Disinformation and plain old lies take the place of facts and data.

We live in a system that is rigged for two parties. Anyone who might want to run for office as an independent candidate has to jump through extra hoops to even get on the ballot. If that person succeeds in getting on the ballot, voters are often told not to waste their vote on them. That we must vote for an “R” or a “D” because if we don’t, the other person is so much worse, and we can’t risk them winning.

This mindset shows that even if only subconsciously, people know that the system is rigged. This is especially ironic because both major parties have been losing registered voters for years and those of us who register as unaffiliated outnumber either party.

The parties have always had ideas on how best to manage the affairs and laws needed to keep government working for the best interests of the people. Compromise was used. It never was a perfect system and we have always bounced between the two opposites to some degree. But it has never been as dysfunctional as it is now.

People have become convinced that their ideas are the only ones that are valid. Neither side actually listens to the other.

As this area becomes more urbanized, many in the rural areas feel that their beliefs and rights are being ignored or trampled. For example, building codes and land planning often preclude property owners’ rights to place a second home on their properties to house workers or grown children. While elsewhere in the county, a developer can turn good agricultural land into condos or second homes.

Meanwhile, there are people in urban areas who are convinced that everyone outside of the city limits are election-denying reactionaries who would be fine with a dictatorship. The parties play upon these fears, using their access to the media to keep people angry and upset.

We are better than this. I urge each of you to talk to your neighbors. Talk to people who you know hold political beliefs that are different than yours. Don’t talk to prove you are right. Talk and listen to learn and understand. Find that common ground. Don’t let politicians keep us so divided.

Scott Perez is a Durango area-based former working cowboy, guide and occasional actor. He has a Master’s in Natural Resource Management from Cornell University.