“Don’t cross the streams,” Egon Spengler admonished his fellow paranormal eliminators in the 1984 comedy classic “Ghostbusters” as they faced the daunting challenge of an agile foe atop a New York City skyscraper. Why, they asked? Couldn’t crossing the streams be good?
“Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light,” Spengler explained.
With the 2014 passing of Harold Ramis, the actor who played Spengler in the film, I’ve asked myself from time to time if there were a political analogy that could be drawn from that pivotal moment in my favorite movie. Turns out, there is.
We’ve seen in the 2016 election cycle, perhaps more than ever, the negative consequences of political polarization. The entrenched encampments of partisan Republicans and partisan Democrats are helping stir the bases—but not helping to unite the nation at a critical juncture. Independent voters and those with a tangential attachment to political parties are getting turned off by the process and, as a result, also by the steps necessary to right the national ship. Without unification on at least a few joint fronts, we’ll be stuck in the mud for another four to eight years.
Could crossing the streams, so to speak, help heal the wounds and build consensus?
Here in Indiana, we certainly have polarization, too, but not nearly to the same extent as the nation as a whole. Sure, we have plenty of political bickering, snarky tweets and fiery rhetoric, but by and large, our leaders on both sides of the aisle have made it a priority to reach out to one another to find innovative ways to advance our state. They’ve recognized the importance of (gulp) governing in, you know, governing. They’ve recognized the importance of crossing the streams in benefiting the state.
In the movie, crossing the streams meant intersecting two powerful beams of light from the scientist’s proton pack to create a more powerful force for good. In the political sense, crossing the streams means mixing and mingling among partisan classes. It means listening to one another and understanding where others are coming from in their beliefs and ideas. It means accepting, not necessarily embracing, our differences of opinion and respecting them, too.
We won’t always agree. How boring would that be? But we can, and should, at the very least listen. If you’re a Republican, turn on MSNBC, and if you’re a Democrat, flip on Fox News Channel. The first minutes, if not hours, will be nauseating as a new way of thinking is rapidly thrown in your direction, but the long-term benefit will be felt across the political spectrum and across the country.
We might actually turn on a television to find a Republican and a Democrat nodding in approval of each other rather than shouting each other down.
For those who might not remember, the Ghostbusters did, in fact, cross the streams. And rather than exploding into a glorious CGI spectacle on the big screen, they defeated their common enemy. In response, Winston Zeddemore, who was played by Ernie Hudson, screamed out, “I love this town!”
Let’s love our country. Let’s cross the streams.•
Seat is a former deputy press secretary to George W. Bush, the author of “The War on Millennials” and senior project manager at Hathaway Strategies. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.