Keeping in mind that the purpose of this blog is to communicate first and foremost who I am to my family, both present and future, I want to express some thoughts about the political process. This post is not about who to vote for (or against) nor is it about any of the particular issues that this particular national election seems to turn on. These are just my thoughts and observations:
The political process is not really about solving issues. It is about getting into office. Not that I doubt the sincere desire of those who are running for office. I am sure that they truly care about the economy, the environment, human rights… it is just that right now, they are trying to get into office. It is understandable. If they don’t win, they don’t get to put any of their ideas into practice. The other candidate does. As a result, they say whatever they think will get them into office knowing that at best they won’t have full control to do what they say anyway due to the checks and balances in our system of government.
This irritates me to no end. I hear more arguments against “the other side” from the candidates (and folks who have already decided) than reasons to vote for “us”. These kinds of statements attempt to persuade out of fear of what will happen if the other guy gets in i.e. “Obama is a closet Muslim”, “McCain = four more years of the same thing” etc. They capitalize on our fear of the unknown.
I am afraid of fear. Fear causes us to react without thinking. It appeals to our primitive nature, which works very well for escaping danger, but sucks for making political choices. Fear causes suspicion. It hinders listening to one another. Fear polarizes us.
As a friend said in my group this morning, we are all in the same boat. We have different ideas about how to solve real world issues, but we all have a vested interest in making the world a better place. Broadly speaking there is no right way or wrong way. The democrats/republicans didn’t create this mess and the democrats/republicans cannot get us out with their policies. I am not saying that both sides are saying the same thing, nor am I saying that it doesn’t matter. I am saying that each “side” has something to bring to the table and if we could just learn to listen to and value the thoughts that each side presents, we would be able to live together more peaceably.
One huge obstacle to listening to one another is an irrational belief that if we hear and acknowlege someone, we are somehow sanctioning their thoughts. I want shout out loud, that it is a lie. The most powerful tool we have for coming together as a nation is to listen to people we do not agree with and reflect back to them what they believe so that they feel heard. That alone can create an atmosphere in which we can present our side of the disagreement… disagreeing agreeably… or as Stephen Covey put it, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. This is one of the most powerful tools for communication and collaboration that we have… and we are afraid of it.
This might sound strange coming from a middle aged, middle class white guy, but I feel marginalized by the lack of dialog. I don’t know of any better system of government, but at the same time, I didn’t have a voice in determining the candidates we are voting for. At the same time, I cannot imagine how it could be done better. I almost erased this paragraph because I don’t have a solution. This feeling of being marginalized or disenfranchised may be completely irrational… but it is what I feel… so it stays. I hear lots of people saying that they aren’t happy with either choice. I guess that could be sour grapes, but it could be a feeling that we are stuck with two candidates and neither side represents our individual desires for government very well.
I frequently hear the cliche, “If we don’t learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.” I think that statement only works in hindsight. History is too complex to really be repeated a la Ground Hog Day. In retrospect, we can always see patterns of repeated history that we had we recognized, it would have prevented some repeated historical problem. It’s not the same though. It never is.
Each of us sees things differently. If each of us has a voice, we can evaluate things along the way from a much greater perspective. Remember the Indian tale of the blind men and the elephant. “It’s like a rope.” “No, it is like a wall.” “You are both wrong. It is like a tree trunk.” Most of the time, it is not about right and wrong. Most of the time, it is truly about perspective.
Doesn’t Tina Fey make a great Sarah Palin? I’m kicking myself this morning because I forgot to record SNL last night. DOH!
While I think that as a country we need to take the right actions for the right reasons, I also believe it matters very much what the rest of the world thinks of us. As Thomas Friedman describes in The World is Flat, we are living in a global economy. Whether we like it or not, we are no longer an isolated world power that gets to dictate to the rest of the world how things are going to be. I believe that protectionist measures that are founded on a desire to keep things the way they have always been are dangerous. We are not repeating history. The rules are changing and we need to stay in the game. The stakes are too high for us to shut off from the rest of the world, or worse engage with the world solely through acts of war. We must pursue peace… not peace at any cost, but neither peace on our terms alone. We must negotiate from a position of strength, but one of compassion by choice.
Who am I voting for? Wouldn’t you like to know!
Update – Do we really learn from history? Check out the facts below…