I am betting one of three things happened when you read that title up there… 1. You got yourself all puffed up to come over here and vehemently disagree with whatever you think I am going to say (simmer down and hear me out, yo). 2. You got yourself all puffed up to come over here passionately agree with whatever you think I am going to say here (thanks for having my back, but you can summer the fuck down as well). 3. You immediately felt your shoulders tense in a way that makes you wonder if the shit-show that is our modern political scene has somehow triggered a bazaar one-off evolutionary event, wherein your body is preparing to grow a shell so when your shoulders lift at the fist warning of a political discussion, the motion will serve to pull your head into said shell, thus protecting you from getting caught up in unwanted ugliness (I feel your pain; please relax and listen/read for a few). Whichever reaction you had I want to assure you that this is not going to be the sort of political rant/discussion you might think.
I voted yesterday… first thing in the morning. Because I live in Oregon I was able to get out of bed, brew myself a cup of coffee and eat my breakfast while reading over my voter’s pamphlet. Then, after brewing a second cup of coffee and attaching my ballot to my clipboard, I sat on the couch in my ugly, red, snowflake covered, ankle-length, flannel nightgown, draped my fleece skeleton blanket over my legs (I seem to have misplaced my unicorn slippers), and I voted. I normally do this when I am at home alone but it just so happens that my husband and I have colds, which prompted us to skip water aerobics this morning. This meant he was leaving for work as I was just about halfway through the first side of my ballot. We don’t vote together. He takes his ballot to work with him where he can vote in peace and I, as I have already established, vote at home when I am alone. The only part of the election process that is a group activity for us is driving to the ballot box to drop them off. Done and done.
Yesterday was a little different though. As he came down the stairs my husband, in his usual jovial tone, asked me what I was doing. Upon my telling him I was voting he made a comment about whom I should vote for. I cocked my head in confusion/annoyance and make a joke about voter intimidation and calling 911. I thought my joke was pretty hilarious so I giggled to myself as I continued to double-check something in my pamphlet. He made another comment. And then another. As you have probably gathered, he and I don’t exactly see eye-to-eye when it comes to this topic. I try not to even discuss these things with him because I don’t think we will ever have the same view on some of them. But this morning he irritated the shit out of me and I took the bait. It was a fairly polite conversation on the surface… I asked him a question. He responded. I added comment and asked him to clarify his answer. He defended his point. I added comment and asked the question again but framed a little differently, and then feelings started to get involved. We didn’t really argue but when he left I felt shitty and angry and resentful regarding the entire election and voting process*. I don’t like feeling this way.
Here is the thing about that feeling. I am the only person on the planet who has the ability to make it go away. I mean… I sometimes allow this shit to get me questioning my marriage (and friendships/other relationships). But when I step away from the feelings for just a moment and collect myself I am able to see the big picture problem we are all facing. This problem is what I want to talk about and it is human nature we struggle with, not politics. It is our arrogance, our self-righteousness, and our pride that keeps us from peacefully coexisting. Now take a deep breath, because this is something I have been wrestling with for a while and I will do my best to articulate my ideas here, but I need you to stay calm and really look inside yourself.
I often hear people saying our political climate is getting “so much more divisive and heated than they can remember it being in the past.” **If you have even a minor interest in history you must know religion is the only thing in this world which has rained more vitriolic discord upon us than politics, and lets face it, those two have been in bed together since humankind crawled out of the damned pool of primordial goop from whence we came. Shit, I have even told myself this little lie. But that is all it is, people. A big fat lie, and it is one that enables the gross sense of victimhood we are all guilty of cloaking ourselves in when things don’t go our way in elections, or in the years following elections. People disagree. It is the downside of free will. We can think for ourselves and choose what to do with and about those thoughts, and we can’t make anyone else think or feel what we do. And this is the rub with politics.
OK, I am about to get a little radical here (and not it the totally awesome Valley Girls way) so stay with me. Though I am not going to talk about my political leanings here I will say I believe my thoughts and feelings are 100% right, and I believe this to the core of my very being. And if you do not agree with me, I may be able to step back and look at your opinions from your perspective, and maybe even understand why you feel the way you feel, but I still think you are as wrong as wrong gets. Ha! Shitty, I know! But if you tell me you are any different then I will call you a liar. This is where all that arrogance, self-righteousness, and pride comes into play. Our fatal flaw in this arena is our universal belief that what we whole-heartedly believe to be right and true should therefore be right and true for everyone else. If you step back for a moment and take emotion out of the equation, logic tells you this is an impossibly outrageous bunch of crap.
It is fatally arrogant to believe that your vision of Utopia*** or what the fuck ever, will work for every other person you inhabit this planet with. It won’t. But here is the thing… we have the system we have in place because it helps us reach a balance, or compromise. I know, I know… sometimes it doesn’t feel like we have compromised fairly (or in some cases at all), but we built this system. It is the result of many systems that didn’t work before this and it will one day be the basis for a new and improved system, which will hopefully serve us better. I do believe we are due for a big shakeup/change in the way our system runs and I think it is coming; but rather than facing this possibility with fear, I feel hopeful. I feel hopeful because change is a good thing. I feel hopeful because in the 200,000-year history of modern humans, we have always survived change. We will get through this shit, yo!
This isn’t to say that I won’t be disappointed (and probably crushed) if the candidates and ballot measures I voted for yesterday don’t win. I totally will. I will probably even cry a little because I am a person and I get the person feels. But I will get over it and so will you. The world will absolutely NOT come to an end. It just won’t. I will continue to go on believing what I believe and for the most part my daily life will ultimately be unchanged. I know this is a difficult concept to swallow but it is our emotion that gives politics the power over us it has! We don’t have to give it this power. Honestly, every four years we get to pick a new person to be in charge. I know your mind is spinning out on the implications of the person you don’t want in charge being in charge for four years, but take a breath! Step back and shed the emotional response you are having. Let logic rule. It is going to be OK. Humans have made it through much worse.
The sticky wicket with political beliefs is that they are very much a part of who we are personally. My life experience has given me the foundation for the belief system I operate on. This is who I am. And you are who you are. When we become so enmeshed in our political differences (or any differences for that matter) that we begin lashing out at opposing ideals, we are often not thinking about the fact that what we are doing feels like a personal attack. Yes, sometimes it is a personal attack… there will always be those who cannot get past their emotion enough to participate in rational discussion, but I truly feel people like that are a minority.
****Our reactions to our feelings are a choice. It has taken me sooo long to understand this concept and what it really means. You have the feels you have and you can’t help those, but examine why you are having them. Are you afraid? Mostly likely you are. Fear makes us act like major assholes. Take a deep breath and remind yourself of all the things I just said. Take another deep breath and look for the humanity in who you are speaking to or about… it is there. Take another breath and make the conscious decision to be kind and understanding. Know that everything is going to be OK and that one person is not the face of what you feel is wrong in the world. Ugliness is a choice. We don’t have to be ugly.
* I feel I should note that when he got home last night I told him how I was feeling about the morning’s events and he did apologize.
** Tarring and feathering? Being “run out of town on a rail”? These are all real things… not just some silly shit old people say. The birth of our country was violent. This place was built on the back of political disagreement. The Civil War? Civil rights? Every war ever in the history of humans mucking about like assholes? Crack a book, yo!
*** For shits and giggles I may write something describing what I like to call “KatieTopia” once of these days, but for now I am going to do my best to stay on topic.
**** I am writing this before November 8th so I can go back and read it over as if Katie from the past is giving Katie from the future a little pep talk in the case things don’t go the way I would like them to.