We have some very dear friends who divorced several years ago. We are more ‘his’ friends than ‘her’ friends, so much like monogrammed towels, he kept us in the split. That’s okay, she is very cool, but we were really only her friends through marriage. Kind of like friends-in-law.
Anyway, the marriage was rocky all along, and perhaps the split was inevitable, and maybe the right thing. Unfortunately, though, it got ugly. Really ugly. Two normally rational people were screaming obscenities, pushing, shoving, calling cops, and talking about restraining orders. The simple solution would be to separate the assets, shake hands, part ways and NEVER see each other again. But the situation is not so simple. Just ask their two kids.
I know and love my friends. They love their children. Unfortunately, they have let their anger at each other override this love. They have used their children as weapons, turning them against their ex-spouse, filling them with venom, and making their fractured marriage that much more difficult on these two. It seems that being right is more important than their children’s wellbeing. They each want to get in that last dig so badly, that they will do it at any cost. And why not? They are not really the ones paying the price.
We hear from our remaining friend the evils of his ex-wife, the selfish actions that hurt her children. We also hear from him the justifications for his own behavior, and the denial that he has any choice but to act in such a way. All the while he sees the damage that his ex-wife is doing to his children, but is blind to the damage he inflicts. Blind is perhaps a stretch- but he doesn’t see that he has a choice, making his own detrimental actions really her fault. All because neither wants to be wrong. Neither wants to give up any power.
With this mental picture in mind, I want you to see our current political climate with fresh eyes. We, the American people, are the children of a very bad divorce. The people who have been elected to care for us and represent our needs and voices(the parents in this analogy) have traded their responsibilities for the chance to grab more power by tearing their political rivals down and manipulating public opinion (the children in this analogy). It isn’t about what is best for the public anymore, it is about what is best for their side, their political career, their agenda. The bickering and fighting and nastiness are self-serving to the two political sides, and detrimental to the people that they “serve”. When we buy into the extreme rhetoric, we become pawns in their game.
Politicians are going to fight. They are going to disagree. Each side has a differing opinion on the best way to run the country- and that’s okay. This is how we can arrive at the best solutions. But the goal should be to get to solutions, not to destroy the other side so you can stay in power. It’s okay to say things like “I do/don’t like the way this country is being run, and my vote is going to say so.” Or “I do/don’t agree with that, and here is why.” But please, for the love of God, STOP with the insane claims simply meant to whip people into a frenzy. The Republicans are not waging a war on women. But that rhetoric is certainly helpful to the Democrats. Our president is not a Muslim born in a foreign country. But that kind of distraction from real issues is great for the Republican party. There are real issues to discuss about women’s health and Freedom of Religion, and there are real issues to discuss about the President and his policies. But the ridiculous claims from either side are like the fighting ex-spouses trying to turn the children against the other. It is rude. Wrong. Distracting. NOT HELPFUL.
Here are some things that are helpful:
- Consider that people who have other political views are perhaps NOT pure evil and looking to destroy the world with their agenda. Consider that, just perhaps, they just think things would be better with their agenda. Then entertain the thought that this does not make them stupid, greedy, or trying to rob you of your freedoms/money. You do not have to agree with them. Just do not decide that their motives are the same as Darth Vader’s.
- Monitor your own speech and thoughts. Around our house, no matter who is in the White House, we refer to them as President _____ or Mr. _____. Even if we don’t agree, the office deserves respect. Get away from the destructive rhetoric and argue the issues. An added benefit is that it will give you a better articulated argument about why you think your side is right if you stop calling names and start talking issues. Eleanor Roosevelt said “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Don’t be small minded, and try to be more than average minded.
- Turn off the 24 hours news cycle. They get paid if we watch. That is their motivation. We watch because seeing a good fight is fun. But we spend our time being whipped up in this frenzy over what this person or that person says. Then we watch more. Then they make more money. Punish this bad behavior by turning off Fox News, CNN, MSNBC. Check your headlines once a day, then go on with your life. No more 24 hour news cycle! Real life is much more worthy of your emotion and engagement than this circus sideshow (and that is exactly what it is) anyway.
- Act. If you really feel that passionately about something, then do something. Pick a cause that you are really passionate about and work for it. Rusty and I feel strongly about people who are hurt by the financial crisis, so we teach a course on finances. I feel strongly about the disenfranchised, misunderstood youth of America. So I work with my church’s youth group. You could mentor a kid, volunteer in a school, raise money for a cause, work in an animal shelter, feed the homeless, or any number of things. Take all that passion that you have for a national issue, and do something about it locally. If you are not willing to do that, then maybe you just want to be mad (part of the problem), and don’t want to help (part of the solution).
We the people are the like the children of a very bad divorce. It is time for us to break the cycle, turn to mom and dad and say enough is enough, and demand that they stop letting their hatred for each other override their love for their us, their country. We will no longer engage in the political process in a way that is not civil and not helpful. We deserve better.