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We The People

(Reposted from November 8: Correction in 3rd paragraph from end and last paragraph. Corrections shown in bold)

I voted. I feel proud but heartbroken. No matter who I voted for, I would have felt that way. But my dad and many others fought and suffered and many still do to protect our right to vote so somehow I had to suck it up and vote. One candidate will win the election but no matter who that is, we the people are the losers. We deserved better choices than who we got. Thing is, we’re the ones that put them there. We as Americans have to own a part of this nightmare we call a Presidential race.

If you’re like me, you were inundated with links to videos, articles and recaps from pundits, journalists and people “who were there”. You engaged in debates with friends and perhaps strangers as you were buying a bagel or waiting for a bus. You were assaulted by the candidates’ carefully crafted messages in the media. The real assault, however, was on our country, our culture, our young people and our future. Never have I felt so demoralized by the choices for President and the behavior of the candidates as I have been in this election season. Even after investing a good portion of time running down articles sources, trying to find the truth or at least accuracy, it still gave me no clarity or relief. Trying to validate the inundation of information is a job in and of itself. I think the candidates always have and always will rely on that fact and our lack of will to make that investment. Even with the effort I put in, I still came up with no clear winner. Because there is none. There is only a clear loser…us…and by extension the world.

No matter where your leanings are, both candidates wreak of corruption, lack of moral and ethical fortitude and have demonstrated a clear sense of self-servitude. People have suffered under both of them. Can all the people who have written, reported and detailed their “the facts” on either candidate  be wrong? Are there no shreds of truth (good and bad) about both of them? Come on, we can’t be that naïve.

It is easy to dismiss anything that would threaten one’s certainty. Our brains our wired for that. It’s called “cognitive dissonance”. It is a scientific term I’ve spoken about in prior blog posts. It is that deflector shield that we engage that allows us to block any differing incoming information so that we can be certain about something and thus can act. Our brain does this by invoking the neuro equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and going “la-la-la-la” so you can’t hear the other person. People (their brain) hate to be challenged with the facts once they’ve made up their mind. By reopening our mind for new incoming information, we are also shoving our brains into a territory of uncertainty again. We don’t generally like that.  There are 3 ways cognitive dissonance shows up and voices its power:

  • ·        Your facts must be wrong – “My kid couldn’t have beaten up your kid. Your kid must have provoked him.”
  • ·        I didn’t want it anyway – This is the story we tell ourselves when we realize something we want badly is not attainable for us. Think Aesop’s fable, The Fox and the Grapes. (sour grapes)
  • ·        I’m a good person. How could I make a decision that hurts others?– this happens when leaders or anyone has to make a decision that can/will have a negative impact on others. Think workforce reductions, closing of site locations, etc.

If you’ve noticed when you talk to your friends, colleagues or even strangers, most will have a very strong opinion one way or another… even those who agreed that both candidates were less than what we deserve. (With rare exception everyone I talked to across the country this year felt this way more and more as the campaign went on.) Still people will end up landing to the left or right for the most part, with a few saying they’ll vote for the independent. They will make up stories or cling to certain pieces of information that allow them to become DECIDED, marginalizing or ignoring contrary data presented to them. This will relieve the tension in their brain so they can act and move on.

So how do you manage to lift your arm to pull the lever or write a check mark when you go (or went) to the polls today? How can you walk away still feeling like there is hope and a chance for our country’s democracy to rise above what is dragging us down and dividing us daily?

I go back to our Constitution which begins with these words in its Preamble:

We the People of the United States…

It seems that in all the fracas we forget that we have a voice. A very strong and powerful voice that is backed by a mind that has become distracted, lulled into a false sense of security and entitlement. I think it is a very dangerous road to go down to silence your voice in favor of someone giving you what you believe you’re owed. Our country was created on the backs and lives of people who believed in something bigger than them. They walked off their farms, left their businesses and families to fight for our freedoms. Those who stayed at home kept families together and kept life going and did their part to aid the effort in so many ways. They had a voice and they acted. I am not implying we go to war; I am saying we need to fight for what we love about America and being an American. To become more engaged than ever writing, talking, taking action that keeps our elected officials focused on delivering on what they promise.  We need to do OUR part in being good citizens of this country upholding values in the face of fads and what is trendy. Honor, integrity, trustworthiness, respect, and the pursuit to be better and create something better for our current and future generations never goes out of style. These qualities have no party line to tow. This is a human obligation. We the people must not settle and think someone else will take care of us. Let someone else fight for our rights. Especially those who have proven they are out for their own self-interests and love of power. We need to keep our eye on the ball no matter who sits in the Oval Office and we need to do our part each day to be the best citizen of this great country that we each can be…even when it is uncomfortable or requires more of our time.

Is this hard? Yes, it can be hard. But you have to pick your hard in life and if you’re going to go through hard you might as well do so in a direction that’s going to put you in a better place when you get through it.

How can we begin to create a true UNITED States? Let’s begin by suspending judgement and increasing curiosity. We need to understand before we judge. We also need to find the courage to be decisive risking popularity in favor of moving forward to a better outcome. Let’s get real. No leader is ever going to please everyone however leaders need to have the courage to gather the best intelligence around them, process it and then decide and act knowing there will be a backlash and harsh judgement from some segment of the population to deal with. The truth is you cannot please everyone and trying to do so misses the mark all around.

Let’s not idolize celebrity and crass; let’s seek to emulate and demand integrity, courageousness, wisdom. Let our maximum effort be our minimum standard. Let us forgive for we all will need mercy at some point in our lives. Let us hold ourselves accountable as fervently as we talk about holding others accountable. Let us not trade off our principals for popularity. Let us ask ourselves inconvenient questions that may lead to inconvenient truths so that we can stay connected to our emerging world while preserving these timely and timeless values that have no expiration date, no party line, no boundary of any kind.

Let us not abuse the rights of the constitution and use its words and vision as an excuse not to care about how we apply those rights. Our rights as Americans should never supersede our obligations to each other as humans. We need to become more evolved as to how these two concepts intersect: What is our right and what is right. We need to do the moral gut check more often before we invoke “it is my right” to do this, to say this, to behave this way.

I want to be better in all the ways I’ve described and in ways I’ve yet to discover. That is my commitment and my expectation of myself going forward as well as that of our leaders. I hope you will join me and make your own commitments to be better at serving our country as one of its citizens and holding our elected officials to the same. We the people can do this. The question is will we? The best is yet to come. Let’s all do our part to make it happen.

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