Estimated reading time: 8-9 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — If you’ve never heard of Sharon McMahon, it’s a good bet you know someone who follows her on Instagram.
The former high school teacher breaks misinformation with simple facts to enlighten her nearly 1 million “Sharon Says So” Instagram followers and podcast listeners.
She gave Boyd Matheson of KSL NewsRadio some great courtesy advice for KSL-TV’s series A More Perfect Union.
Boyd Matheson: Sharon Says So is truly an invitation to a different kind of conversation about the Constitution, our country and our society. Tell us about it.
Sharon McMahon: Well, it turns out I really feel like the American public is hungry to learn how to think and aren’t being told what to think. And there’s not a lot of that on the internet or, to be honest, in a lot of the media that people consume. There’s just a big gaping hole in this conversation about how we can work together. How can we work side by side instead of yelling at each other all day? Ultimately, most Americans want very similar things.
They want good schools for their children, they want safe communities, they want opportunities, they want prosperity for their neighbors; Most Americans want very similar things. And they differ in how to get there. But if we could reframe the conversation about what needs to happen in America to talk more about how we can work together to get those things done (instead of) spending all our time yelling at each other on the internet, think If we had done that, it would have been a very different political landscape.
Boyd Matheson: And we would probably believe that we are nowhere near as divided as many and the extremes of left and right want us to believe we are. We also know that common ground is always found at higher levels, which you won’t get by yelling angry things back and forth at each other. How can we change that and get to that higher level/commonality?
Sharon McMahon: I like what you just said about finding common ground on higher ground. Because once you’ve slung mud, you know the race to the bottom isn’t a race you want to win, right? Like what happens when you hit rock bottom; what’s down there It’s not nice, I can tell you that.
So in order to get to that higher level or that common ground, each of us is required. And I think that’s one of the challenges that maybe, maybe, Americans could rethink how they think about it. Instead of waiting for someone else to come and the white knight is on a horse, instead of waiting for a politician, or you know, media whiz to come to our rescue – we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for. It’s up to all of us to do this job. And if we want a less divided country, we need to be less divided. That’s up to us. We cannot wait for someone else to come and rescue us.
Most Americans want very similar things. And they differ in how to get there.
So it really starts with each of us in our own homes. And the way we talk to our kids, the way we shape conversations around the dinner table. That’s where it really starts. And then it spreads outward into our workplaces, into our schools, into our government, but it starts with a choice made by each individual.
Boyd Matheson: I really believe in this idea that you are talking about community and culture leading and the politicians actually following. And I think historically, you often share that in terms of how we’re really anchored in community and culture first, and politics is downstream of all of that.
Sharon McMahon: Hmm, I mean, you can see my constitution here, it says something at the beginning, it says “We the People”, right? It doesn’t say, “Oh, great leaders, please save us from ourselves.” Right? That’s it. I have a feeling that so many Americans have adopted this mindset that it’s up to someone else. And so it is absolutely true that how we act is reflected in who we choose. And if we want better candidates, we have to step up and start being better people. And I’m not saying that we’re all doing something wrong. But this is something that will take a concerted effort to change. If we want change, we have to do something differently.
We can’t do exactly what we’re doing and just keep our fingers crossed that this time it will be different. If we want things to get better, we have to have hope for the future, we have to hope that things will get better. And then we have to get our hands dirty, we can’t just sit around and cross our fingers, we have to use our hands and feet to be the change we want to see.
Boyd Matheson: If you look at the application of the principles of the Constitution, what’s the one thing we should be thinking about? Or what is the one thing we should all shout at Washington to do what the document actually says?
Sharon McMahon: I think the principles of democracy are set out beautifully in this document. And a lot of Americans will say things like, well, we don’t have a democracy, we have a constitutional republic. I just want to remind people that yes, a constitutional republic is the structure of government that we have. But democracy is a type of government, is a concept where the people have a say in their government. So we are a constitutional republic with democracy, we have a government of the people so that citizens have the right to participate in their government. I think some of the enduring principles that I’d like to revisit and that I think all Americans should hide in their hearts are things like the rule of law.
The principles of democracy must be upheld, not just because it’s a good thing, not just because we want to vote, not just because people should have a say, but because America’s place in the world really is what it is because of America’s enduring democracy. And if we want to maintain this position in the future, democracy must be one of our highest ideals.
If we want a less divided country, we need to be less divided. That’s up to us.
Boyd Matheson: How can we rebuild or strengthen this trust both with each other and with our institutions?
Sharon McMahon: In the case of government, that might require even more transparency than they give people now, even if they give more transparency now than they did 50 years ago. Even if that’s true, it might take more to build trust. And the same goes for things like institutions, like the media. people are people; You get things wrong sometimes. And as much as we sometimes try not to do anything wrong, we have to say: “You know what, I expressed myself wrongly. I will correct what I said that I expressed myself incorrectly. And what I should have said was X.” And there are a lot of studies that show that someone is actually more credible when they say, “Oh, sorry, I worded it wrong. What I should have said was X.” That actually builds credibility. But if you try to hide or pretend it didn’t happen, or if you try to say, “Well, I never said that,” it hurts credibility.
So we need more honest transparency from our institutions. And we need the same thing, between us as citizens, we need to be willing to think, we need to be willing to say, ‘You know, I’ve been thinking about this and I, you know, I think about you, I might have been right,’ and ready to be, as a leader and as a citizen, to have the humility to have the humility to say, “I’ve thought about it a second time. And I think I might be wrong” or “I can really see where you’re from” even just saying “I’ve been thinking about it a bit, I can really see where you’re from” doesn’t necessarily mean that you were wrong and they were right, it just means you thought about it again and you reconsidered your point of view.
That doesn’t mean you have to necessarily agree. But just this sentence: “You know, I gave him some time, I can really see where you’re coming from.” Wouldn’t that feel great from someone you’re having a disagreement with? I think these are just a few ideas of how we can work to build more trust between us and between our institutions.
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