In these waning days before the election, I have noticed the hyperbole on my Facebook page increasing significantly. Whatever candidate one is for, the other guy or gal is not just “wrong”, they are bordering on “evil”. The idea of polite discourse seems to have gone out the window. Friends who post a comment, and hear from another friend who disagrees, resort to insults and personal attacks.
I heard a speech by one of the candidates talking about going across the street to the neighbor’s lawn who is “for the other guy” and offering a hand in friendship to align together on common issues. Isn’t this the way it should be? Don’t we all want the best for our families? Don’t we all enjoy living in a country where we are free? Aren’t we all interested in reducing debt for future generations? I could go on and on, because I believe there are many fundamental ideals that hold true for everyone. Now, this doesn’t mean we all agree with the steps to take to attain these ideals. That’s where the alliances fall apart.
I wonder often about how political parties have become so polarized, and I think it comes down to this – fear of loss. If I am standing on one side of the fence, and you are on the other, the statements you make or the ideals you uphold contain some threat of loss for me. If you get what you want, I lose something in the process. You are taking away something important for my life. It isn’t just about disagreement; it’s as if you are reaching into my home and stealing something of value to me.
Isn’t most hate born from fear? And isn’t most fear born from the idea of losing something? In difficult economic times such as we’ve had over the last few years, most people feel as though they have already lost too much. “And now you want to take away more from me? I don’t have more to give!” is what many people would say if asked.
This dynamic takes place in much of our lives, even though we are not attuned to it. I may feel jealous or resentful because you got something that I don’t have, because somewhere deep down it signals to me that I lost something in the process of you gaining it. Or we look around at what everyone else has and feel like we are falling behind; if they have it, it means we might not be able to get it. It’s a resource-scarce mentality that can pit us against another person. I’m not an anthropologist, but I’m sure much of this is rooted in our ancestral times where we had to fight one another for survival. There were only so many saber-toothed tigers to go around, after all!
Now we live in a world of abundance. We can give and give, and there is still more for us to have. The problem is that we often don’t feel sated. Even though I have a lot, I might be missing out on something else that you have – and now I want it!
As you go into this week and the election that will take place on Tuesday, look at the political views you hold and how strongly you feel positively toward your own party and negatively toward the other guy’s. Take the chance to self-reflect a little about fear of loss. Fear of losing. What is underneath your feelings – good and bad? Allow yourself to use the emotional response to learn something important about yourself. Whatever way this election goes at the state and national levels, we all must live together and learn how to collaborate for the greater good. Start doing whatever work you can today to learn more.