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A Different Way To Think About Politics?

Would you like to start a fight, or at least a heated discussion? Would you like to anger half the people in a crowd while mollifying the other 50%? Then talk about politics. Along with religion, there is no way to trigger emotion and passion faster than this subject. 

Applying the usual definition, politics are "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." Today, in our society, politics is about the conflict,  staking out turf and defending it to the verbal death, or something even more literally. It is usually loaded with sarcasm, fixed belief systems, and distortion of the opposition's position.

Can I suggest a different way to think about politics? Can I offer an alternative that allows us to engage instead of enrage? Can I propose a way forward that may have more positive results?

Yes? Then, please think of the subject of politics at its most fundamental level: human beings trying to live together in peace and prosperity. Remove all the fancy language and organizational double-speak, and politics is about accomplishing shared goals. It is about success as a species. 

The origin of the word is from the Greek, polis, which means community. What is community?  That is a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social and economic standards.

So, at its core, politics is nothing more than a shared experience. Using that definition, this hot button word becomes all-inclusive instead of mutually exclusive. It means those of us who live within the boundary of this nation share basic, common goals.

What gets us into trouble is when we begin to stack layers of emotion and personal bias on that simple explanation. We look to emphasize our differences, not our similarities. We see ourselves as aggrieved, not connected. We do not accept that we could possibly share similar goals with those on the other side of the aisle.

My belief system assures me we are flawed creatures who sin and play to our worst instincts on a frequent basis. But, that belief system also tells me that I should strive for a better way. I should rebel against my baser instincts, of which our current view of politics is an excellent example.

So,what is to be done? I can think of three steps I can take, and maybe you can be right there with me. Also, please add something that I may have overlooked.

1). As much as it may go against my nature, accept that the majority of the political opposition really wants the same thing I do, they are just going about it differently. As much as it may feel as though they are dead wrong, harmful, or seriously misguided, accept that their motivation is not to do the devil's work. This will allow me to see them as fellow human beings, not creatures bent on destruction.

2). Do not become so fixed in my beliefs that I can't adjust and modify as needed. Do a quick review of American history over the past 241 years for a reminder of how things change on a regular basis. What I think is absolutely correct today may prove to be completely wrong if I live long enough.

3). Interact with people who aren't just like me. You never learn much staring at a mirror. As uncomfortable as it may be, I shouldn't isolate myself from others who hold different political views. Be an advocate for what I believe and explain why respectfully and with passion. Listen to any response. If it is filled with anger and spite, don't respond in kind. Thank the person for listening and walk away. My goal is to plant a seed, not wait for a tree to grow.

I am not naive. I know there will always be people in politics who have little or no moral center. They are greedy and self-serving. They may even be criminal in action and intent. Every effort to play to their better nature will fail because they don't possess one. We need to keep the spotlight on those people, call them out, vote them out, impede the damage they can do.

But, for the vast majority who truly believe what they are doing is for everyone's good, we will accomplish nothing by constantly attacking and denigrating those who see things differently. 

Personally, this post is needed reading for me. I spend too much time obsessing over things that I disagree with, give a fist pump when something political I don't like fails or goes wrong, and hope for the failure of policies I believe to be dangerous or counterproductive. Yet, I rarely put myself in the position of trying to understand the other point of view. I am too much of the mirror-gazer I mentioned above.

Seriously, I have no idea what your reaction will be to this post. Am I kidding myself? Are things so seriously off at this point in our nation that I should be marching in the streets? Or, can more be done by understanding a point of view I don't believe is right, and reacting as if that other person has as much value as I, even if I may not get that same respect in return? Can I help things by participating and interacting rather than just rooting for failure?



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