When It Comes to Politics, Sometimes It’s Wrong to Be Right
I’ve felt icky about politics since I began following it in high school. For a while, I assumed all politicians were corrupt. Later I looked at the system as fatally flawed. With this election cycle, I’ve been appalled by the power struggle that’s emerged. Yet it wasn’t until last night, as I read yet another opinion about why one of the candidates--in this case, Donald Trump--was best, that I realized what my ickiness was about.
I saw that we’ve all--candidates, voters, the media, etc.--been holding onto what we think is right. In fact, the entire election process is about proving who’s right and who’s wrong. We have debates to talk about who’s right. We have news articles and blogs to talk about who’s right. We have radio and television shows to talk about who’s right.
Holding on to being right is one of the most dangerous acts we can take. For when we hold on to what’s right, we’re blind to the realities of the world.
We’ve so concentrated on saturating the world with words about who’s right, who’s wrong, and why liberals, conservatives, Republicans, and Democrats are good and evil, that we’ve lost sight of talking about what actually matters. What’s working in the United States of America, what’s not working, and the actions we can take to make this a better country for all its inhabitants?
We’re a collection of unique viewpoints. Our country's population is not made up of 300 million Democrats, 300 million Republicans, 300 million socialists, 300 million fascists, or 300 million Trekkies. To think that one viewpoint is right above all the rest is preposterous. There are things that work about each and there are things that don’t work about each.
For some reason, our political system says that when someone is a Republican or Democrat that’s all they can be. This isn’t how humans work. We are not computers to be programmed in exact ways but complex beings capable of having multiple viewpoints, changing our minds, and contradicting ourselves. The labels we’ve placed on our politics is limiting. More than that, it’s a detriment to the health of the American nation.
— Jason Altmire (@jasonaltmire) January 9, 2014
I have my own views on the political race. I’m a liberal Democrat. I believe in bigger government, the freedom to choose, stricter gun control, and improved public education. Yet, this post is not about my views. It’s not about the lens through which I’ve seen the world for 24 years. I’m not writing about that because it’s not working. Having my viewpoint and propagandizing it does nothing for our political system. It plays right into wanting to be right and convincing others--and myself--of my rightness.
Instead, I’m taking on the challenge of letting go of my beliefs and being open to the possibility that while what I believe may be true for me, it may not be what works best for our country. I challenge you--whatever your political background is--to do the same.
Right now, I see our political system as a group of tourists on vacation unable to agree on what to do.
One of us thinks we should only go to touristy spots because that’s how to travel. Another thinks we should only go to off the beaten path restaurants because that’s how to travel. Another thinks we should only lie on the beach in the sun and drink mojitos because that’s how to travel.
— Bipartisan Policy (@BPC_Bipartisan) May 6, 2016
We all disagree. We all think we’re right. We all think there’s no other way but ours. As long as we’re attached to being right about how we travel--or how our country should be run--we’ll never have a vacation everyone is happy with. We’ll always be fighting against each other instead of working creatively together. We’ll think it’s about winning our viewpoint instead of opening the possibility for a vacation no one could have dreamed about.
Right now, we approach our political system like a win-lose--someone must win and someone must lose. The thing is, that someone losing is still American. If our country is to be strongest, we cannot live in a win-lose society. We must live in a win-win society. It’s not about one party winning and the other losing. It’s not about one candidate winning and the other losing. It’s about the American people and the American nation winning. That’s it.
Let’s get egos out of the way. Let’s get party lines and labels out of the way. We can stand for our beliefs, we can be committed to them, but let’s not be attached to them. Let’s try on the beliefs of our foes in an attempt to understand them. Let’s talk about our differences, not just say why we’re right.
— RealClearPolitics (@RealClearNews) May 12, 2016
If we’re able to let go of being right about our political viewpoints, we’ll actually make this country as great as it can be. I’m not saying we should all agree. We should disagree. But we should disagree not from a place of needing to be right but from a place of working through our differences to create something stronger, something more successful, something more American.
This election is a defining point in the history of our country. The walls of old politics are breaking down. Yet, the need to be right is as strong as ever. So the challenge now is to let go of being right and to try on the jackets of our opponents and see how they fit. If we all do this--Democrat and Republican alike--we may finally see what works with our country and what doesn’t work.
Being right doesn’t work. When we can let go of other values that don’t work about being American and concentrate on the values that do, well then we’ll have a country we can all be proud to support.
Jake is a man of passion. He is drawn to obscure history, Red Sox baseball, creative cooking, and a plethora of other pursuits. An alumnus of Kenyon College, where he spent most days with a pile of history books next to him in the library and flew to two school records on the track & field team, he now lives in Brooklyn, NY. He is currently writing stories and speeches, building a coalition of cafes, roasters, and consumes who support The Coffee Trust’s efforts to empower farmers at origin, and is reveling in discovery on a daily basis. Follow him on Instagram @CookingCulture and Twitter @CaptainFishlegs.