I think I’m pretty smart, and I feel certain that you are, too. I read stuff and I try to pay attention to what’s going on in the world. When I see something on social media, I usually check it out before I share it, and when it comes time to elect new folks into office, I do a fair amount of due diligence towards understanding each candidate’s intentions and history so that I can be sure that I am picking the best representative for our community. You probably do the same, right?

Each of us has spent a good part of our lives building our belief system based on what our parents, teachers, mentors, friends and chosen sources have told us we should believe. Regardless of where we each have landed or how many times our beliefs have changed, we didn’t get where we are this morning by falling off of a turnip truck and getting hit on one side of the head or the other. We’ve thought long and hard about our positions and we are certain that we have reached the best conclusion, and yet there is a very good chance that the person standing next to us feels differently and is just as certain in their own ideals.

But how can we all be right, all at the same time?

Honestly, we simply cannot and the best thing we can do for ourselves and our country is to accept the possibility that we might be wrong about points A, B or C in order to allow for the finesse it takes to truly make progress in our society. But that is so hard to do! We are living in difficult times, everything seems to be going wrong in one way or another, and the only sense of security we can muster is in feeling that what we believe is right is, in fact, right.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it actually makes us more vulnerable than we realize. That security we feel in being “right” is the thing that allows us to fall prey to manipulation. If “they” know what we believe, they know exactly what we want to hear. And validating what we feel is exactly what turns us even deeper against each other.

There was a great article circulating on social media this week that made this very clear. The piece titled “That Uplifting Tweet You Just Shared? A Russian Troll Sent It” was written by Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren, both experts in social media and propaganda. In it, they succinctly describe how internet trolls are not always easy to detect; sometimes they are playing to our perceived strengths in ways that are difficult to realize with the intent to promote a deepening rift.

It’s enough to make you feel played like the proverbial $2 fiddle, isn’t it?

The idea of “United we stand, divided we fall” is an age-old concept that dates back as far as Aesop of Greek legend, and it is just as true today as it ever was. The deeper we despise, the deeper we divide, and the weaker we become.

In a previous column, I cited a fantastic TedTalk in which psychologist Jonathan Haidt lays out the critical balance that divergent political perspectives creates. His talk is titled “The moral roots of liberals and conservatives” and I encourage you to watch it. We literally need each other, to be able to bump against each other in productive ways in order to find answers. If we continue to allow ourselves to be driven to despise, we get nowhere but divided.

While we are being distracted with finger-pointing and nail-biting distress over how “they” are ruining our country, the powers that be in Washington are busily working to promote their party’s agenda and it has very little to do with actually solving problems. It mostly involves raising dollars, and both sides of the aisle are equally guilty.

In November, the Rome International Film Festival had the honor of premiering a film titled “Unrepresented,” a documentary feature film that presents a compelling look at corruption in Washington and the way it plays out across the board. The film was so enlightening and disconcerting to those in attendance that a second screening has been scheduled for this Thursday, Jan, 30, at 7 p.m. at the Rome City Auditorium.

As described on the film’s website, “Democratic and Republican party leaders alike encourage us to believe that the political divide is wider than ever. In reality, the vast majority of Americans agree on basic reforms to outlaw the wanton political corruption from both parties, but politicians won’t pass them.

‘Unrepresented’ reveals the opportunities and challenges as committed public servants, nonpartisan activists, and everyday Americans build unprecedented movements to fix the broken system before it’s too late.”

If you missed the first screening, I strongly encourage you to come and see this film that will shake you to the core as you begin to understand the way that the system works, mostly, against the good of the people. The screening is perfectly timed as we enter the race for what is already a highly contested Senate seat that has candidates coming out of the woodwork to represent our 14th district.

The film includes an appearance by local attorney David Guldenschuh, who discusses his work in organizing states to enact an Article V movement to prompt a balancing of the national budget, something our elected representatives seem to struggle with accomplishing.

I hope to see you there for this very eye-opening film. No matter which side of the aisle holds your alignment, let’s avoid being played against each other. We are better than $2 fiddles, so let’s start acting like it.

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

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