I write this on the morning of what will likely be dubbed a historic shift in political directions in the U.S. Not that we haven’t been here before, but I truly hope we won’t find ourselves back in the same place four years from now. Because if we gloat, if we rub it in, if we use this election success as a license to feel more right and more correct, than we will only drive the opposition underground to ferment until another opportunity arises for it to find rebirth in the American political landscape.
Racism, as an example, didn’t go away with the Emancipation Proclamation. It took another five and a half years (three years after the end of the civil war) for the fourteenth amendment to be ratified. But that didn’t end racism either. We still had sharecropping and chain gangs and segregation and widespread lynching’s. 96 years later the civil rights act was passed, but that didn’t end racism, and neither with the BLM movement. And it won’t go away by merely getting “our guy” in the Whitehouse. Instead, if we gloat about our success we’ll suppress its outward appearance, causing it to fester away in the shadows so it can rear its ugly head when the political climate changes again, which it always does.
Liberals Have Given “Political Correctness” A Bad Name
Liberals have given “political correctness” a bad name. Imagine that? Inviting and imploring people to speak in a respectful way has become a bad thing. Why? Not because it isn’t good to be respectful, but rather because liberals have brought their egos along with their evolving belief systems. It wasn’t enough to just implore people to speak respectfully, they had to make people feel wrong for not getting it right.
Imagine how you would feel if I said you were wrong for what you believe? Would that make you want to understand why? Would you engage in soul searching and re-read history or political philosophy to try and find where the distinctions and differences lie? I think not. You would more likely be pissed, offended, maybe a little hurt. You might also be inclined to summarily dismiss my ideas and notions — “contempt prior to investigation.”
Well . . . that’s exactly what liberals have done. And I’m one of them. And there have been times when I have judged those I’ve deemed to hold less than enlightened opinions. But I’ve turned a corner. Not that I’m perfect. Not that I’ll get it right all the time. But I’ve seen the light. “What light?” you ask. The light of compassion. The light of understanding. The light of appreciating our differences, even when (no, especially when) your ideas are diametrically opposed to mine.
Beliefs Are Choices & We’re Not Always Right
Ideas are just ideas. Opinions are just opinions. And I would go even further and say that beliefs are just beliefs. Whether they be related to the nature of family or the nature of God, we shape our reality by the beliefs we hold. And those beliefs are merely our choice.
I would go further still, to venture into the sacrosanct domain of “capitalism,” and the much maligned “socialism,” to say that both systems are imperfect and flawed, and that they both can succeed or fail, not based on their theoretical underpinnings, but rather by how they are executed. Meaning, they are executed by people — wonderfully flawed and imperfect, filled with envy and a desire to control, often accompanied by egotism and pride.
How could it be any different? — that we are imperfect and whatever system we employ is doomed from the start to be imperfect. So, as soon as one system or ideology fails, it gives rise to the detractors to point out its faults and deem the system and the ideology a failure (not the execution of it). Then things flip the other way for a while, until the new direction fails and gives its detractors the opportunity to criticize and dismiss the ideology — and the cycle continues.
Liberals need to not gloat. Don’t stoop to the level of egoic criticism and cavalier dismissal of ideologies that a good percentage of the country still believe in — whether you agree or not. Because the truth is, no one is right 100% of the time. And . . . there may very well be some essential underpinnings of the opposing platform that hold merit and are worthy of consideration. Even if just to consider for a moment and potentially integrate within a greater political philosophy. That would serve to bring us together and mend the divide.
We Didn’t Win
We didn’t win. This is only a beginning. And truly there is no winning so long as we see ourselves in opposition with the other political party. We are, in fact, one country. One nation under god, as it’s sometimes said. “Liberal” and “conservative” are just labels that keep us distracted from the real work that needs to be done to move the country forward. The inward work. The work of self-examination, critical and objective analysis, and compassionate dialog with an intention of truly understanding one another. This is the sorely needed long-term change.
Seth Godin said it like this, “The media has exploited (and invented) crises on a regular basis, now more than ever, often at the expense of focusing our attention on chronic conditions, which are the real challenges.[emphasis added]”
James Madison wrote, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Affirmative action is a flawed piece of legislation, but it’s necessary to ensure fairness until we can evolve our culture to a point to where it is no longer needed. Therefore, it’s a tradeoff, like so many aspects of our system — flawed by the mere nature of the fact that we are flawed.
We wouldn’t be talking about universal health care if the capitalistic healthcare system hadn’t failed us in so many ways. And we wouldn’t be talking about pollution, and even global warming, if the economic philosophy that drives our system didn’t have a nasty little principle called, “externalities.” Conversely, capitalism wouldn’t be adhered to with reverential respect were it not for the distortion of certain socialistic systems around the world.
Therefore, one election doesn’t make us the winners. It’s only a tiny footnote in a long journey of humanity trying to figure itself out — to work on the “chronic conditions” as Seth Godin says, to evolve ourselves as a people, and to strive for better-ness.
Finding Common Ground
Gloating comes from egotism. Let’s try to be better than that. How about inviting a conservative to dinner and don’t talk politics? Just show them a good time and let them know that you’re not their enemy. More importantly, try and find common ground. Instead of looking for differences, look for similarities. This is the point of connection and the beginning of mutual respect.
Imagine a country in which presidential debates were about trying to understand one another, so people could make decisions based on who they find a closer alignment of values and beliefs with. Not who is the best of the worst, or . . . (brace yourself for this one) which candidate feeds your ego more by telling us how “great” we are, or that we’re “better” than the other side.
If we can come to understand and embrace that we are all flawed and imperfect, and that any system or political direction we employ will succeed or fail based more so on how well we execute it, then we might just be able to evolve ourselves to the point of looking more so for character traits in politicians such as emotional intelligence, humility, and a capacity for empathy.
Celebrate Yes . . . And Then Let’s Get to Work
This is a time for celebration. But celebration of what? I would argue for our collective capacity to galvanize action. Which means there is some hope that we can dig ourselves out from the depths of apathy and rise again. Liberal? Conservative? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we strive to be better, and how we do that is by getting to work.
Democracy is participatory. So is community. Being in a family. Being in a relationship. They all require work and effort to remain in harmony. When the scales tip off balance, we take action to right the ship.
And let’s remember . . . it’s one ship, one country, one political system. Please don’t gloat. Instead let’s get to work. Together.