It seems like everyone’s abuzz – talking, arguing, getting worried, upset or distressed. We, the people, are approaching Election Day. Most of us feel comfortable when we’re preaching to the choir – our friends. But when we face someone from the opposite political camp, our dreaded differences emerge.
We put on super-duper election glasses, that, unlike 3-D glasses that combine multiple images into a larger view, afford us only one view – our own.
And once we put on these glasses, we end up with what I call broken eyes – blurred and blinded vision, limited to seeing only the party or candidate of our choice.
We become animated and disgusted when someone rants against our favorite candidate. We are disappointed and outraged when we discover that someone we previously assumed was on our side is actually supporting the opposite party.
The closer we get to Election Day, the more impaired our vision becomes. Our ability to see beyond our position diminishes and some of us create a trail of enemies who were once called friends.
How on earth does this happen? What causes this symptom of broken eyes?
It’s our belief system, "I’m right and you’re wrong." Pathetic as it is, we allow ourselves to get pumped up with adrenalin as we collectively rear up, like masses of dinosaurs, eager to push each other into extinction rather than see anything other than our position.
Yes, our eyes are broken. We can’t see that we are our own worst enemy. Wrapped in our sense of right-ness, we create polarities that compromise the health and goodwill of our communities. What appears as irreconcilable differences are, in fact, symptoms of our unwillingness to find common ground, to become aware of alternative solutions and to develop new skills to communicate successfully.
Instead of grappling with broken eyes in our super-charged political arena, let’s look at an ordinary couple, together for 20 years, disagreeing about how to spend their tax refund.
Partner No. 1 wants to put the tax refund toward a new truck and says, "Sweetheart, a truck is a practical investment. I can use it for work and you can use it to bring home the groceries."
Partner No. 2 responds, "I have wanted a new washer and dryer for the past three years. You want clean clothes and my idea will save energy and water, so it’s an investment for our whole family. No way are we using that money for a truck!"
Their eyes are broken. They can’t see beyond their own position. They are unwilling to listen. They are locked into the belief that it’s either an either/or choice – it must be one way or the other.
When our differences collide, we become defensive and resistant. We dig our heels in, believing that we’re right, or deserving, or smarter or more powerful than our partner who quickly becomes our opponent.
Yes, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, partners of all kinds become opponents in a nanosecond when it comes to dealing with differences.
Yet, all it takes is a minor shift and the polarization dissolves. Sometimes the shift comes from a third party with a great idea. Sometimes, simply the passage of time provides a salve to soften people’s positions. And, sometimes we decide that our relationship is worth more than winning the disagreement.
Voila! Three weeks later, this imaginary couple’s 12-year-old son sits down for dinner and says, "Guess what? I learned about investing in the future in our math class today. Let’s buy heifers to help people who are a lot poorer than we are. It’s called The Heifer Project."
The son’s enthusiasm breaks the gridlock between his parents. They agree that this is an interesting way for their family to invest the tax refund and serve others.
Broken eyes are mended when we let go of attitudes like "I want what I want when I want it" or martyr-like resignations such as "It won’t make any difference anyway."
When we are willing to admit that we have dug in our heels insisting on being right, when we are willing to admit that we have made decisions based on self-interest and greed, or when we are willing to admit that we have strayed a bit from telling the truth, we are well on our way to mending broken eyes.
The mending begins with each one of us. The election process offers a special opportunity to see ourselves more clearly. Broken eyes go beyond party lines. They are the eyes with which each of us views the world. Are we willing to try regaining a vision that embraces and heals humanity? I think it’s time.
Ruth Marcus has a private counseling practice in Sequim. Her book and free daily inspiration are available at www.DrRuthMarcus.com.