“A healthy democracy requires a decent society; it requires that we are honorable, generous, tolerant and respectful.” ~Charles W. Pickering
The other day I was talking politics with my friend.
We agree on most political things, but even so, I could feel myself getting agitated. Talking politics is like sitting in traffic. Nothing terrible is happening, but it brings out the worst in people.
During the conversation, she said something that should be obvious, but it was an “ah-ha” moment for me. Every person on every side of a political perspective believes they are right. And they don't understand how the other side can't see the rightness of their perspective.
But my friend reminded me that one's political perspective evolves from their life perspective. Of course that is true, and it immediately softened my heart.
Someone who is gay is going to have a different perspective than someone who is straight. Someone who is deeply religious is going to have a different perspective from someone who is not. Someone who was raised one way will have a different perspective from someone raised another way.
We each come to the political table having experienced life differently. That is a fact, a truth that can't be changed. How then would it be possible for everyone to agree on what or who is best? It isn't possible. Because what is best for me isn't necessarily best for you.
We may have beliefs about what is “best for the country,” but even those are shaped by our personal needs and individual perspectives. Yes, there are some universally right and wrong ways of governing, but we still see these through the filter of our perspective. We can't be talked into or badgered into changing our viewpoint.
Civil Political Discussions?
So why then do we engage in political “discussions” — which are really no more than excuses to try to win someone over to our side? Why do we post rants on Facebook or make vitriolic comments about candidates? Why do we try to make other people feel stupid, shallow, unenlightened, or misguided about their choices?
I have witnessed a few civil political discussions, but a very few. Most of the time, it ends badly. And ultimately we end up judging someone's overall character by their political persuasion. That is so sad. Because people are mufti-faceted and interesting and have so much more to offer than their political beliefs.
I admit, it is hard to stop talking about it, especially during a political season. You see, I'm talking about it now and maybe it is agitating you. I hope not.
A Respectful Approach
But I think we should make the effort to stop talking and just listen. Really listen to both candidates and what they are saying. Really listen to your own heart and what it is telling you. And if someone insists on talking politics with you, just listen and hear their perspective without lining up your counter-argument. Relax into their perspective and seek out any truth in it for you. Soften your heart to their perspective which is unique to their unique life.
This doesn't mean you must abandon your beliefs or even your fervor. We have a moral obligation to stand for something, but not at the expense of self-respect.
For most Americans, it feels like there is a lot at stake with this particular election –the state of our economy, our place on the world stage, the hope of a better future for our children. But the day after the election, we will wake up and everything will be exactly the same as it was the day before.
We will have the same relationships. We will be working with the same people. We'll be exposed to the same connections on Facebook and Twitter. The election will be over, but do we really want to be left with bitterness, divisiveness, and ill-will? Do we really want to look at our friend across the table as our political enemy?
The beautiful thing about this country is that we are free to bring our personal perspectives to the political table and make a choice about what we believe is best. I think that freedom is very, very dear and merits a dignified and civil discourse.
Barring that kind of discourse, it's best just to maintain dignity and civility. Listen and learn what you can. Soften your heart to the views of others. Contribute to the future of our nation and the world by sowing the seeds of peace and kindness, even as you strive to make the country better with your vote.
What do you think? Please share your comments below.
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