The truth is we are much closer together than we are apart. I’m not a democrat. You’re not a republican. We’re both humans who care deeply about certain issues. We probably have different and varied opinions about how to solve even the issues we agree are important.
It’s probably safe to say that the vast majority care about our family, friends, and preserving or improving our way of life. We probably all care about personal freedom.
Let us try to stay focused on those things we have in common and let’s try to be involved citizens. Let’s try to let go of hate of the “other” political party that is stirred up by the media. Let’s even let go of hate for the media, because the truth is each individual, each group whether it be a family, a business, a political party, or a nation is going to have their biases based on what they want or are trying to achieve. That includes you and me.
The media, for example, plays an important role in democracy. They are there to bring facts to light and inform the citizens of what is going on in their country, in their government, so that accountability can exist. At the same time, the media, whether it’s a national news network or even a small blog or even you as an individual reporting on Facebook, all have an agenda which is to get people to read or listen to your information. As a business, people whose job it is to report the news need to be paid for that work. So in addition to providing an important service, they have a need for people to take in their reporting. This causes media to want to make the news as “delicious” as possible for their audience. If the story is boring no one will read it, but the citizens need to be informed. So the media is forever walking the thin line of delivering straight facts, but serving them up in an appetizing way.
So let’s not hate the media. Look for facts, listen to multiple interpretations of those facts, but also form your own opinions, realizing that many subtle differences in opinion can all potentially be correct. It’s not always black and white. There are many shades of gray. Let’s be more open to being wrong and compromising with a spirit of “ok let’s try it your way. Let’s see how that goes.” The sky won’t fall in one day. And let’s be big enough to admit when our way didn’t work out and we need to try something else.
And similar to the media all other groups (businesses, political parties, charitable organizations, and on and on) have both their mission to do good, and their underbelly pressure to get their mission accomplished even at the cost of violating their core beliefs.
You don’t have to look far to see that this conflict exists for each one of us. Who among us is perfect in adhering to even our own personal ideals?
The most benign example is parents and Santa Clause. Our mission is to create a delightful Christmas experience for our children, but our conflict is that in order to do that we violate an ideal of not lying.
Let’s take a look at another example, let’s say you’re a real estate agent. Your mission is to sell your client’s home. You have certain legal obligations regarding disclosure to buyers. The discovery and revealing of these disclosures to buyers is at odds with your mission to sell houses. You perform the discovery of disclosures and you are prepared to reveal them if asked, but how proactively do you reveal little nitty gritty things about that house and how many do you leave for the buyer to figure out along with the inspection. Does this make you a bad person? It seems to me that it’s all wrapped up in the system you’re working in. There’s a balance that most people in this situation strive for and that seems reasonable. The other players in the situation have to be proactive in looking out for their interests.
No matter what your job is, if you examine it you will be able to find these places where you have both a noble mission and a conflict in executing that mission. Sometimes they are quite subtle and sometimes not subtle at all. Think about it this week as you go about your job. Where do you cut corners? Where does your boss either overtly or indirectly or by omission ask you to cut corners or break/bend rules in the name of achieving your mission? Where are the dark corners where you know “it won’t hurt anyone if I….” or “no one will notice this.” Often times there’s not even this conscious thought because it is so common to how business is done.
Another example can be very simple. You want to try out new restaurant X and your spouse wants to go to new restaurant Y. You’ve offered to research the restaurants ahead of time. So your mission is to find one that you will both like, but your conflict is that you already know which one you want. So what do you do? You might try to find the things about the restaurant you like that will be pleasing to your spouse and highlight those while omitting the information that wouldn’t be at the top of your spouse’s list. Does that make you a bad person? No it simply makes you a person who has both a mission and a conflict/bias. (I realize that sometimes you may simply choose the one your spouse will like, but for many people in this mundane situation this is how it might go.)
And so the same is true for our political parties. They have a mission to bring good changes or maintain good things for their constituents, but they often will be tempted to break their own ideals in order to accomplish those good things.
As citizens, I think we should be less shocked about the biases and conflicts that exist because they exist for all groups and for ourselves. With this understanding we’ll be less likely to hate. When we are less focused on hating, then we can put our precious energy into solving issues creatively and with compromise when needed (which is pretty much always).
Instead of grumbling at the TV, we should write actual letters to our elected officials, letting them know what is important to us and the solutions we propose. Instead of always pointing out where others are wrong, where problems exist, we should look for ways to be involved in making solutions happen.
Democracy doesn’t work without involved citizens. Our elected officials can make laws, but the rubber really meets the road with all of us. Are we helping to make solutions come to life? Or do we only find problems and complain that “they” are not doing enough to solve it? “They” is us!
So maybe you feel like “what can I possibly do in this big world of many and complex problems?” If you know the starfish story, you can save the starfish that’s right in front of you.
You don’t have to save the world to make a difference. If everyone worked on just one issue that was most important to them, then we would start to really make the world a better place. Fit in what you can. What talents and skills do you have that you can lend? Whether its being an organizer, a worker-bee, a communicator, an inspirational rally-er, a heavy-lifter, an technical expert, if you do something, no matter how small, then you have made a difference. Don’t avoid getting involved just because you can only spare one day out of the whole year. Every bit helps. And when you help you reduce your anxiety about the world because you are taking action.
The truth is we are closer together in what we hold dear than we are apart. Let’s live with openness to compromise, looking for the good in each other, having compassion for the conflicts we all have, pushing each other and organizations with a spirit of kindness and understanding to rise above those conflicts to exert their mission as ethically as possible. And lastly when we see problems let’s personally take action to make the world a better place.
At our root we are not democrats or republicans. We are humans who care about other humans and our world. Let’s work together. We are all on a the same ship out in the middle of the ocean. We can’t get off the ship. We need to work together. And let’s make it enjoyable!