It is rare that I toss my thoughts about politics in to the arena but I feel like it is time. I am not going to convince anyone who to vote for or offer an in depth evaluation of any particular candidate or issue. I am going to talk about how important it is remember that our choices, reactions, and mindsets impact the world around us. If the current divisiveness in our country is not causing anxiety, then you probably want to skip this. If it is, hear me out.
Politics, in general, has never been my favorite subject. In fact, the word itself makes me cringe. Politics is defined as the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.
Basically, this is the definition of struggle, or better yet, war. Pretty heavy stuff when you look at it that way. Including the word debate in the sentence seems like an attempt to paint the process as civilized. Presidential elections happen every four years, but in recent years, it seems like the tension and growing animosity between one another is constant.
Lately, watching the way people are treating one other reminded me of one my favorite passages from Switching Teams. I cannot stop it from rolling around in my head.
“I believe because we share space on this earth, what one does, we all do. We are connected because we are human beings. This is the truth no matter what your religious affiliation may be, what ethnicity you are, or who you happen to love. Behaving like the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s is not getting us any closer to the goal of understanding and respecting one another. We disagree for disagreement’s sake and become more interested in the fight than in the outcome. We act like children fighting over a swing on the playground. We throw handfuls of sand in each other’s eyes and laugh when we watch someone fall down and skin their knees. Yet, we mind our own business when see a bully knock down the weakest kid on the playground and steal their lollipop. We are turning into a nation of bullies and think this is okay. When did sticking up for one another turn into sticking it to one another?”
My son turned 19 this week and will be voting for the first time this November. He has been closely following the process for over a year and is also a registered independent. He has read the websites, but wants to hear directly from all of the horses’ mouths’. He wants facts and specifics so he can make his decision. So far he is disappointed with what has transpired so far.
I wished that his yelling “Stop talking about how awful your opponent is! Tell me what you are going to do!” would magically make it so, but it did not. This is the current state of our political process. Whether you are blue, red, or polka dot in party affiliation does not matter. It is coming from every side in a never ending barrage of sound bites and endless coverage in the news cycle.
Watching his disappointment looks a lot like how he felt when he found out about Santa and the Easter bunny. He is getting a crash course in how things are done and is not at all impressed. His disappointment is slowly giving rise to frustration and anger.
The more pissed off he gets, the more I have to remind him that the anger he is feeling is what is contributing to all of the mess in the first place. Insert Yoda reference here. Teaching moments are rare for grown children, but his frustration opened the door for this one.
Since he was a small child, his father and I drilled in to him the “it is better to be kind than right” lesson. Also known as the lesson most likely to guarantee and eye roll. Yes, I understand the world is more complicated than a stupid saying, but that does not mean that this simple lesson is not true.
Is it possible to hate someone you do not personally know? Think about it. It is easy to forget that while we cannot control what other people say or do, we can control what we contribute to the hate pile. It starts when we decide to properly filter our own anger and reactions and then choose to process it before it is unleashed on the world.
Unfriending or unfollowing someone on social media is not hate. It does not prevent or affect their right to their opinion. It is a prime example of silently agreeing to disagree and respects both their right to believe and support whatever they believe in and our own beliefs.
You can disagree with someone about their views, “lifestyle,” or decisions without hating the person. Kindness is apolitical. Hate is firing off nasty responses and name calling. The maturity to know the difference is the issue here.
I get that beneath the surface of every heated debate are deeply held beliefs, which can lead to escalating emotions. Healthy debate is a good thing but fear, ego, and any number of things can trigger our reactions. Being passionate about something is often seen as having the license to say, do, and behave however we see fit. Passion is not an excuse for straight up hate, regardless of the source.
When emotions take over we forget what we are fighting for. It would be nice to think that we are all evolved enough to keep our emotions from influencing our behavior or thinking, but most of us are just not there yet. When we choose to operate strictly out of emotion, we are much less likely to let go of the need to be right. This mental space is where hate is born.
When emotions are high, we lose sight of the simple things like the value of kindness, agreeing to disagree, and the opportunity to see the things within ourselves that need addressing. This is where the work begins and not on a stage at a national political convention.
We are all responsible for what we put out in to the world. It is difficult to see the forest for the trees when the forest is set on fire from both sides. When did we decide that fighting fire with fire was the best way to solve anything?
Fire departments use water to put out fire. Picking up the blow torches does not allow for any understanding or peace.
If you find yourself struggling to be kind, feel peace, or listen to someone who does not agree with you, take a step back. Shut off the television, put down your phone, take a break from the internet.
If you find yourself growing angry, hateful, frustrated, or anxious, begin to examine where it is coming from. If you are not sure, ask for help. I am willing to bet that the political process is not the root cause of the issue.