Happy election day.
Here’s the deal: Our country is screwed if we keep thinking only in terms of “left” and “right,” “liberal” and “conservative,” “republican” and “democrat.” I’m not saying we need to support third parties (although I’m happy to do so, as I think Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are better candidates for the presidency than Obama or Romney)—I’m advocating open-mindedness, dialectical thinking, creativity, and whatever the opposite of “herd mentality” is. I’m opposing binary (ironic, I know) thinking in general, because (1) It’s a false view of reality and (2) It is harmful for individuals and society. It hurts society because it keeps us voting for the “home team” instead of really listening, and finding not “common ground” or “compromise” but altogether new ideas which integrate the best of a multiplicity of positions while throwing out the worst of them.
Yesterday a friend of mine told me she was too scared to discuss politics with her pals—I guess they’re the kind of judgmental liberals who think someone is an idiot or a bigot if they vote for Romney. She’s afraid that they wouldn’t respect her more “conservative” views, and might not be as close of friends. That’s ridiculous! And it’s not true. I know some brilliant lawyers—funny, caring individuals—who believe Obama got college scholarships by pretending to be a foreigner. I know some amazingly loving people—people who basically adopted a gay son—who oppose gay marriage. And this friend is not your stereotypical Republican either—she’s a small liberal arts college graduate, nurse, single-mom paying her way through higher education.
That’s the problem with the stereotypes: they’re often not true. They can be useful in quick decision making, life-saving situations, but that’s not what we’re talking about with politics. We’ve got time and room to debate, so let’s do it. Let’s talk about what we actually think would reduce the deficit—such as both cutting spending and raising taxes (as discussed in the debt reduction commission), how we can actually build positive international relations, maintain geopolitical stability while lowering our worldwide military presence, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels while both relying on short-term domestic possibilities (natural gas, nuclear) and investing in long-term renewables (solar, wind, geothermal, and storage capacities). Let’s not talk in sound bytes.
Let’s talk about real ways, creative, alternative ways to increase representation and decrease the effects of big money and lobbyists—such as drastically increasing the members of the House of Representatives from 435 to 6,000 (see thirty-thousand.org) or having more say in broad categories of our tax spending (see chooseyourtaxes.org). Let’s talk about the “War” on drugs. Let’s talk about farm subsidies. Let’s talk about the idea of a flat consumption tax—like the FairTax—which will be simultaneously be more equitable, more progressive, get rid of the IRS, and potentially raise more tax revenue.
I hate to break it to you, but it’s a complex world out there, where there’s no such thing as black or white, good or bad, or especially Republican and Democrat. There are closed-minded and open-minded versions of both. There’s not even one type of Republican or Democrat for that matter. There are the Traditional, keep things as they are Republicans, there are the Republicans in power who just want to maintain it, there are the rational, objective, Modern type, there are the ones who are mostly motivated by economics or wanting the country to run more efficiently, like a business, and there are the more libertarian Republicans like Ron Paul and Ron Paul voters. The same types of divisions exist in the Democratic party.
The point here is that we have to stop thinking in absolutes when it comes to form. We should instead be absolutely dedicated to PURPOSE and VISION, and let whatever manifestation that takes be as it is.
For example let’s say our purpose is to love and protect the environment. Who can you rally behind this cause? I hope you thought of the Fundamentalist Christians who want to protect God’s creation, and the Texas land owner who’s suing a nearby factory for damaging her property value by polluting the air, alongside Greenpeace and the Sierra Club.
Here’s the crazy thing when it comes down to policy: All the parties are a little bit correct, and a little bit wrong. They have a little bit of the truth, but not all of it. We should look for more than two or three ways to view a problem, more than a few solutions, and create a synthesis of the best of all worlds. We should let go of our attachment to our way.
Let’s take another example: Global Warming. What’s our goal? Let’s say our goal is to help preserve human life and culture. The “Debate” is supposedly over whether or not it’s man-made (the anthropogenic hypothesis), so we spent a ton of money and time investigating this. Well, that’s a waste of effort when we look at our goal. What! You nature hater! You might say, and then you’d miss the knowledge I’m about to drop on you, because I didn’t fit into your little box.
We can’t even predict the weather tomorrow very accurately, much less in fifty years. So regardless of whether or not it’s manmade, we don’t know what the result of global warming is, and we don’t really know how to fix it. On the other hand, we do know the result of people having no access to clean water, and we know exactly how to fix it. We know that when hurricane hits Haiti more people die than when one hits Houston or New York. So although we can’t stop the hurricanes, we can stop the deaths by improving people’s ability to respond—through economic wellbeing, mobility and systems of response. What’s our goal? To preserve human life and culture, remember?
So please avoid getting all judgmental about someone else’s political views, and instead ask them what they care about, why they think the way they do, and see if you can learn something from them. Please avoid seeing the world in binary and consider if there are alternate opinions which wouldn’t fit into just one of two boxes. Most of all, ease up. I’m not telling you how to vote because it really doesn’t matter, not on an everyday basis to most people, not nearly as much as the way we treat each other and the way we see the world around us. We have to deal with our perspective and our relationships every second of every day. So if you want to be happy, please don’t let your individual politics—which really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, negatively affect the way you see things and people around you—which always matter.