On Elections and Peaceful Resolution

4:04 PM



(Written during the 2016 election process which, incidentally, dragged on for a decade.)

My Facebook page has offered a bizarre snapshot of the polarization our nation has been tolerating, or perhaps, incubating, and although my Facebook page is something I have created, a collection of the comments and opinions thrown down by the people I like and love, it does offer a representation of the deep issues being weighed, and resented, in our ever-changing national conversation out there

Abortion or choice? Do we need gun law reform or protection of the 2nd amendment? Does “Obama Care” need to be destroyed or just tweaked? Is America great now, or do our policies slam the door on true democracy? Regarding immigration, do we actually have to choose between an open door policy or a giant wall? 

One thing is for sure; I don’t like conflict. I like conversations to follow my rules, to support my values. What do I value? I want everyone to be heard, and I want the discussion to be civil and respectful, ending in either agreement or resolution.

So in terms of our election season and the monologue-like shots fired out into the internet from biased, carefully-spun editorialized media sources (there’s a poll out there for everyone)…we’re speaking our own truths full force, but we aren’t listening.

Why is the current discourse so negative, so judgmental? Why can’t pro-lifers and pro-choicers converse, or even compromise? Why can’t we protect the 2nd Ammendment while discussing safety issues?  Even though these are literally life and death issues, and even though I myself have forged deeply treasured, value-based opinions of my own,  it's obvious that in a majority-based system, conflict and compromise is sometimes the only way to flush the governmental pipes to keep from living in a state of dysfunction or worse, unresolved tension.

Some of the tension may be due to a general distrust regarding our mostly-democratic system. In certain political circles, the term general distrust understates something more like an absolute belief that government is comprised more of corruption and hidden evil agenda than public service. As citizens and voters, we don’t really get to drive the bus all by ourselves.  

We’re frustrated. We’re frustrated when our representatives in Washington don’t actually hit the target as we see it, and it’s heartbreaking to observe abuse of power, corruption or even just run-of-the-mill-yet-significant congressional inefficiency. I’m not sure how much corruption has infiltrated our political operations, but I prefer to make judgments based on what I know instead of what I suspectWhatever it is we boldy post from the rooftops, and whatever we think we know, there is no denying that compromise is often the way forward, and it is more often the only road to peaceful resolution. 

A couple of decades ago when I was trying to negotiate my way through a marriage with more conflict than I could eventually tolerate, my therapist put it this way: building a wall is the first act of aggression. Our national discourse won’t lead to resolution unless we can lower our defenses with each other long enough to build an environment of respect...long enough to converse effectively.

All of this is particularly ironic in light of the “discussion” Aaron and I had this morning as I barged angrily out the door, anxious to sit at a coffee shop and write deeply about politics and unity. (Pause for comedic effect.)We fought, and I yelled an expletive into the void (the garage, technically) as I stormed out the door. Why were we so polarized in our positions that the conversation was reduced to explosive reactivity?

In that moment, what had become of my values concerning the rules of effective discourse?

It's easy to figure out. I thought I was right, and incidentally, so did Aaron.

Ultimately, the discourse continued peacefully when my husband insisted (accurately) he hadn’t been heard, and when I stopped defending my position long enough to listen. And he listened to me long enough to compromise and forge a way through the conflict, together.

The complexity involved in trying to achieve peaceful resolution as a nation is daunting, but what are our options? We can keep fighting tooth and nail, slinging mud and leaving devastation in our wake. We can concede while massaging a seed (or a mountain) of loss and resentment. We can compromise, surrendering some of what we believe to be so very right and true in order to achieve what might evolve into a...different good.

No one ever said that achieving peace is easy or simple; each one of us has to decide for ourselves what peaceful resolution is worth.

“Peace is not placidity; peace is 
The power to endure the megatron of pain
With joy, the silent thunder of release, 
The ordering of love. Peace is the atom's start,
The primal image: God within the heart." 
Madeleine L'Engle
   




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