Many of us in America are discussing the angst and seemingly unfixable political divisiveness amongst us. I have a somewhat different perspective on the disturbing “how we can repair what’s been broken” subject.
We Create Our Own Reality
It begins with my personal story. For, you see, I am a recovering addict. Mood-changers were just one of the many things I was addicted to, predominantly wishing to remove myself from my very uncomfortable reality. After many decades of successful sobriety, I have this to offer my fellow world citizens, and those in the USA, in particular.
In the years of re-entry to the world after having checked out via mood-altering substances, I’ve come to realize one important thing above all else:
Each one of us creates our own reality. No one else can create our discomfort, or our comfort, but our own selves. This is also a basic spiritual precept, as well as the basis by which anyone suffering from a negative habit can change their bad habit into a better, healthier one. We always do the choosing.
With everyday choices we make, starting with what to eat and what to do; what to read, listen, or look at; when to sleep; whether to exercise and, if so, when and how much; and which friends we invite to get closer and which we choose to keep at bay; and, even more importantly, whom we sleep with, or perhaps enter into a committed relationship with. Or, on the other hand, whether we choose to keep our life open to any new call of intimacy that happens by. All these choices make our individual life as colorfully rich, or as blithely pale, as we want. Instead of a frayed shirt-of-a-life, we can choose to make ours a splendorously multi-colored robe, woven from every colored thread imaginable. We alone create the size, shape, durability, or fragility of this cloak (a common metaphor for “a life”) made up of the sum of every individual’s many choices.
Many people choose to have a safe and secure life. They don’t want anything “different” from what they know. They choose to not have any influences come close to them that might disturb their inner peace. They have chosen to become habitual isolationists, shunning anything new and different, whether it’s an idea, a culture, or a type of person. These are people who think what they know is right for them, and who believe those things are right not only for their own immediate sphere of life, but for the entire world, as well.
Then there is the person who is like me: an addict. Addicted, as a child, to making up stories, games, imaginary friends, “what if’s” and “maybe so’s” and, consequently, getting in a heck of a lot of trouble starting from the word go! Admittedly, I was an extremist. I went out of my way to push the envelope. I chose to defy the status quo way before I knew what that meant.
Every Living Human Is Addicted to Something
So there, in fact, are two different types of addicts. One, like me, is an addict to thrills, always changing, and suspecting of security. And the other is addicted to needing more security. But both, beyond a doubt, are forms of addicts.
Every human alive is addicted to something. It’s simply the nature of our species. Those who are tsk-tsking right now, stop. Think. Look at your life. What are you addicted to? The news? Hanging with your friends? Knowing the most? Making money? Perhaps looking to other sources — like a religion, a political party, a book, or philosophical program — for life’s answers?
We all have our forms of habitual actions. That is one definition of addiction: something we do over and over. Are we addicts because most of us brush our teeth and practice good personal hygiene daily? Well, you could make an argument for that, based on the fact that primitive peoples certainly did not practice the daily rituals that most so-called civilized people do today, to make ourselves presentable to others. Did you remember your deodorant? Your hairstyle? Manicure? How did it feel during the lockdown stage of the pandemic to not have access to these everyday, taken-for-granted personal choices and actions — these addictions of ours? If we don’t bathe properly, we are considered “not fit” for others’ company. I would say, most definitely, that modern humanity is addicted to personal hygiene of an order never before known.
Addictions can be behaviors, then, not merely involving chemical substances.
Let’s talk, then, about the addiction to drama. Certainly, we can see drama becoming more of a popularly acceptable mass-consciousness shift in the way the news is presented. The intonation of a pundit’s voice, wavering between acceptance and condemnation, depending on the news item, all adds to the drama.
In the seventies and eighties, TV series became a national pastime, replacing baseball and hotdogs. Everyone talked about the antics of Archie Bunker and that unmentionable actor, who played everyone’s favorite Black father, who’s now in jail. Then, drama escalated. “Law and Order” hit the screens — still carrying on, relentlessly, to this day, several decades later. Cable brought more risqué offerings, and everyone (but me) watched “Breaking Bad,” where even a plain-faced high school science teacher succumbed to the worst, the very worst, evils of true addiction. This is the kind of addiction most folks know about. The crack heads. The dope fiends. The gutter drunks. But folks, guess what?
We’re all addicts now. If you’re not “getting off” on some drug, you’re certainly “getting off” on binge-watching the latest Netflix or Amazon Prime offerings, or eating the latest gourmet discovery, or … you’re thrilled to be a vegan and mindful that you’re so above it all. These are all new and different versions of addictions. Some of them might be considered “mild” or “harmless,” but they all are addictions, nonetheless.
The Most Socially Destructive Addiction
Now let’s talk about the most socially destructive type of addiction that’s happening today. And I don’t mean the scourge of opioids that took so many lives for decades. I’m talking about the addiction of adding anger, confusion, arguments, and disrespect to our being Free citizens of the greatest Free Country in the world. I’m talking about the people who are addicted to being RIGHT about their choice of politics.
The people on the liberal (the Left) think they are right; those on the conservative side (the Right) think they are. Each have been name-calling, finger-pointing, and blaming and shaming the other for years. Now we’ve finally reached the point where guns are being used in what started off as rightful, peaceful protests. Instead of only shooting paint guns, though, someone shot a real one. Someone was killed in a political confrontation, and I’m afraid to think that this might be a “sign” of the final straw.
We must all do something about the current political divide. But what?
I Propose an Easy, Simple Solution
Here’s what I propose. Admit to yourself, and to each and every person you encounter in the real world or online, that you are human, and you are now ready to admit you are an addict. You are addicted to being right. The way you change a bad habit into a healthy, good one is to replace the bad with something good. The first step is to face reality. Admit you are what you are.
And the better, new habit that is replacing our old, bad one? I propose that each and every one of us, starting now, allows the other guy … to BE.
That’s right. Just let another person BE. Let them have the right to be who they are, no matter what they believe. Listen to them. Respect their right to hold the belief they have. If they don’t do the same for you, let it go. Know in your heart that you’re spreading a new way of Being, a remembered, once-honored way of showing human respect. And, through your actions, others will, eventually, learn to follow. It’s the herd mentality we all live by.
After decades of the present kind of wanton exclusivity in choosing one side or the other, and labeling people who don’t agree with us as “them” while those who are like-minded became labeled as “us” – our American society has, with each of our participation, become more divided than anyone has ever recalled. It’s time for each of us to choose to act differently.
This starts with each one of us being responsible for our own choices. It means that we can choose to respect everyone we meet, even if we don’t agree with them. If each person is totally responsible for their own behavior, we have the means to turn around this horrible divisiveness right here, starting Now.
I have been shouted at by supposed “friends” that, if I don’t vote a certain way come this November 3, they will “un-friend” me on social media, or worse, shun me in their day-to-day actual world, in the scant ways they can do so as we come out of our COVID-caves and start, tenderly, re-entering the stream of human interaction.
No matter which side of the political spectrum you happen to be on, I’m sure you have felt the severity of our divide for yourself. (For the record, I am an independent and keep my vote secret — so yes, please VOTE!) It hurts to realize our former “American dream” has dissolved into such an “American nightmare” of divisiveness.
Many are offering their theories about how it happened, and how to fix it. Just as I did, when I awoke one day and said “Enough!” to my propensity for wanting to alter my consciousness using drama, bad company, drugs, and alcohol (just look around to see your fellow Xanex and Prosac users all around, unbeknownst to you). I knew I had caused the separation from my true self by ingesting substances and choosing drama, drama, and more drama. I awoke to the hell my life was, because friends helped me discover I had chosen that empty, sad life I was leading. They also showed me that it was only I who could fix me.
In the same way, each and every citizen has contributed to the divisiveness that is surely drowning our well-intentioned core of Being an American. That means we all have to do some personal reckoning. You alone — yes, YOU! — are the reason why we have reached this level of separation among people of all types, the good folks of our nation. Whichever party you’re screaming at, our division is what your actions, my actions, and every Joe and Joanna’s actions have sadly, but truly resulted in.
Here’s What Makes America Great
We have forgotten the love, hard work, and commitment to the democratic way of life that made America great. My mom was a first-generation American-born daughter of Lithuanian immigrants; my Dad’s people came over from England on the second shipload of Pilgrims. Unless you’re a First Nation or Native American Indian, you, too, are descended from immigrants. Let’s be respectful of the origins of acceptance that were the originating principles by which this country was founded and became great.
Elected presidents come, and then they go. Another administration replaces the old administration. We, the citizens of this country, are what make America great. No particular elected official or candidate does that. No election is going to “fix” the political divide with a magic wand. Only WE, America’s children, will.
I intimately know both sides of the partisan story. Each side presents their case, with good intentions. But each side is dead sure that the other side is evil personified. This is no way to instill a healing for a wounded nation. We have to let go of our preconceived judgments. We have to learn to Love one another, with all our bruises, imperfections, and downfalls.
I know, I know, the election is right around the corner. And whoever will win, is going to win. There’s nothing I can do about it except cast my vote