Think About It: An impossible year

The grand prize-winning photo in Wildlife magazine was a photo of a Central African gorilla. The photographer Anup Shah captured the magnificent animal in a moment of absolute serenity; her eyes were closed and her mouth pleasantly relaxed while hundreds of butterflies swarmed around her. Shah tells us that the male gorillas were anything but serene as they swatted the butterflies away.

Many of us can relate to the scene for many different reasons; my imagination took me to my ponderings about 2020. Would there even be a place for contemplation and peace during a year that promises swarms of competing ideologies, social cultures and political pandering mixed with promises of intolerance?

None of the foregoing can possibly be mistaken for butterflies but the daily onslaught of political maneuvering can be compared to the seemingly relentless and random swarming of assaults on our senses and daily lives.

2020 is a hopeful number, easy to remember and easy to write. The number promises an evenness, a symmetry and a balance.

The number 2020 may hold hope but the year promises little balance. I’m not looking forward to more of this supercharged, highly partisan, highly political environment. I’ve said it and I’ve heard it said, “it’s going to be ugly.”

Is there any act whether for the sake of national or domestic security that can be viewed in any light other than a political strategy for re-election or election into an office?

American people more than politics!

American people are so much more and have so much more to live for than to be supporting players in a drama or, as some would call it, a reality show in which the main drama is elections and the key ingredient is fear whether we are a Democrat, Republican or Independent.

Most of us have our own life dramas that require us to be present to our decisions and not obsessed with MSNBC or FOX. We have our own happiness – first loves, weddings, children, school, first trips, life adventures. We have missions. We have work. We have careers. We have value to our selves and others.

I have this notion as many of us do that the government is for the people and that decisions made by representative elected officials should be for the people. People shouldn’t have to be on watch 24/7. Individually, we don’t always agree upon on what is good for the people which is expected.

What’s taken me a while to realize is that we don’t agree on who the people are, sort of a “duh” moment for me. After all, I’ve written about the atrocities of killings, discrimination, theft of property and denials of humanity evident in our nation’s history.

Those same forces seem to be underlying our politics of today. Who’s deserving, who’s not? Who can vote, who can’t? Who should get health care; who shouldn’t? Who should be educated; who shouldn’t?

Our answers and values reflected in our answers to these questions may determine our political fate. At minimum, our answers make us vulnerable to political manipulations and election interference. We can be manipulated by values we hold that are resistant to compromise.

Compromise and values

It’s not easy to compromise especially when we are called upon to compromise two competing values we hold. Should it be a struggle to support a candidate who boasts of immoral acts that offend us yet acts to honor a value we hold dearly?

Yes, it should be a struggle, a difficult struggle that requires thought.

Many in that kind of double bind say they balance the greater good against the lessor good. Not sure I get it but at least there is recognition of a trade-off. If there is not a struggle to forsake one value for another of equal importance, balancing is not being done. Rather, self-deception is.

End of year legislation shows us that elected officials who oppose each other can compromise. A couple bills sent by the House to the Senate have passed. Notably, the USMECA trade agreement that replaces NAFTA passed and both “sides” agree it is a better agreement. And, each “side” claims to be have brought something to the final bill.

Sounds right to me — that is the process. The president deserves credit, too; I just wish he hadn’t taken a wrecking ball to NAFTA and the relationships with our nearest and biggest trading partners. Programs are historically improved over time.

The original Medicare legislation required fixes as experience revealed unintended consequences. The same would be true of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Television drama isn’t necessary for the system to function.

Nor does the system require demonization of persons with opposing views.

I was hoping that by the time I got to the end of this column that I would feel more hopeful or, at least know what to do to get cheerfully through the year. But the tentacles of divisive politicization fueled by lusts for power have reached into the most basic parts of our life — justice, national security, health care, education for our youth, climate change action – and can easily destroy the final remnants of trust on both “sides.”

I’ve heard 2020 coping strategies that range from turning off all social and news media to cloistering or inducing a coma for a year. The former risks increasing ignorance and decreasing participation while the latter forsakes the wonder that surrounds us every day in our loves, relationships, work and life missions.

So, I, we must stay with it and not let weariness wear us down or mind-bending alternate facts stall us in a state of anger. There are big jobs to be done that won’t get done if we hold our nose or breath for a year.

2020 is a key election year and will determine our ability to balance progress and build our future for years well past 2020. Regardless of what the president, other elected officials and psychics say, the year belongs to all us. We have a stake and role in destiny and how we get there.

As 2020 enters the eye of the swarm, let’s remember a lady gorilla who doesn’t thrash out and instead shows us serenity in the moment. My guess is she hasn’t read one book or attended one class on being present in the moment.

Bring on 2020: easy to remember, easy to write.

Bertha Cooper spent her career years as a health care organization and program administrator and consultant and is a featured columnist in Sequim Gazette.

Cooper has lived in Sequim with her husband for nearly 20 years. Reach her at columnists@sequimgazette.com.

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