The State of the Union

This morning I woke up very sad. It's been a hard week.

On Sunday, I watched a few episodes of the O.J. Simpson documentary. Monday was the 4th of July, my favorite holiday. I celebrated and felt grateful for my freedoms. Then I read about the shootings of Alton Sterling. I read a lot of comments on Facebook about Black Lives Matter and tried to put myself in the shoes of someone with a different skin color in my country. Then I shared a post on Facebook after the Ramadan attack in Baghdad about how ISIS is not just targeting Westerners, they are attacking other Muslims. And we can't just assume that all Muslims are the same.

Then I learned about the shooting of Philando Castile. Then I grappled with my thoughts about my church and LGBT policies. Then I read up about being a Libertarian and the danger of having such a rigid two-party system in the U.S. I thought a lot about Edward Snowden and Hilary Clinton and how punishments are given. Then I spent some time learning more about gun control and other countries that don't have as many shootings as we do in America. Then last night I get a text from my sister about a protest in Dallas and 11 police officers being shot.

Greg and I woke up at our normal time, 6 am. We were about to get ready for our morning walk that brings us so much joy and peace. But instead I just cried in bed. It's just a lot. And I love America but right now I feel like too many people are so caught up in pride and "I have the best solution" or "my ideas are best" that it blinds us to compromise and change.

I took the "I Side With" test about a year ago. And then I came back to it when my husband took it again and we wanted to compare our answers and see where we have different opinions. I was shocked by how many questions and solutions we differed on. Someone who is my life partner, best friend, and greatest confidant - someone who shares my values and my life; I was shocked that we could have such varied opinions on fundamental issues. 

After I took it, I reviewed my answers and tried to think about them some more. After going to dinner with a few friends who work in public education, I had new thoughts about the common core. As someone contemplating motherhood, I had new opinions about maternity leave that I might not have had a few years ago. After talking to my engineer husband about the manufacturing of hybrid cars, my opinion changed about how to tackle pollution problems.

Luckily for me, I can just change my opinion and it’s not a big deal. But in my mind, that is part of the journey and the reason we're here: learning new things and being OK to change your opinion as you acquire more information. So, I literally went back to my saved test and changed my answers in a multiple choice box. It was that simple. 

I worry about a party system or getting behind a specific candidate with such strong vigor that it becomes part of your identity. I think it's easy to get so pulled into the group think mentality. It might be difficult to step back and say "Is this really what I think? Has my opinion changed? Or do I just go along with my group or my party or my candidate because I'm a member of it?"

I feel sad for politicians because everyone gets so upset when they change their opinion. Some people say that it's a sign of weakness or that it's a manifestation of them just trying to sway a certain group of voters. But what if they truly become familiar with new information that they didn't have in the past and consider a new idea that they hadn’t thought of before. Maybe one experience with a friend who happened to be an illegal immigrant changed their mind about how they want to handle immigration. That's part of the learning process, but we don't allow politicians to have that luxury.

There's a few things that I've kind of settled on as the root problems, and really they all boil down to pride. But I think there's a few different manifestations of pride.

1. Everything is complicated.  

Life used to be a lot more simple. I woke up, went to school, played outside with my friends, ate dinner with my family and did it all again the next day. But as an adult, I have to see and experience a lot more. There's a lot more worry and there are so many more gray areas than I even thought was possible. Every issue I exam, every thing that I think is super straightforward ALWAYS ends up being complex when you actually dig into the content. When I first learned about the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, I came up with quick fixes in my head. Then I went on a study abroad and lived in Jerusalem for 4 months. I learned a lot of the backstories and I met people on both sides affected by the conflict. As you can assume, my quick fixes didn't take any of that into account. And now 8 years later, I still have no idea how they are going to work it out.

I think it's tempting, especially for those of us that are religious, to view a lot of the world as good vs. evil mentality. Those are the good guys, these are the bad guys. But that sort of thinking and simplifying and stereotyping and racial profiling and sexism and judging is so detrimental. We truly have no idea how the other half lives until we've walked a mile in their shoes. Because it's not really possible to walk a mile in everyone's shoes, all we can do is listen and really hear and actually care about the experience of someone else, even when it's different than our own. Which can be hard and humbling, but worth it.

2. Compromise.

America was built upon a great compromise, series and series of compromises of the small states with the large states. But no one wants to do that anymore, it’s so extreme and there’s no moderates. None of our congressman are willing to bend on their policies, so instead nothing gets done. How can we all really think that differently on so many topics and why are too few willing to compromise? There's no one willing to meet in the middle, because that's not how you get elected. You get elected by making promises and representing a constituency. And it's not worth sacrificing your political career to meet halfway on an issue. The loud voices in the community are expecting a certain behavior and when they're not satisfied, they can ruin your life.  From a country that started on compromise, I don't understand how we got so far away from that and more importantly, how we'll ever get back to a government that can meet in the middle and get stuff done.

3. Being OK to change our minds.

It takes a lot of humility to change your mind or to put yourself low enough to reach over enemy lines and accept an alternative to the one you’ve built up in your head. I’d like to find a candidate more like that, but in our election process, that person will never win because each party will find something wrong with them- they’re too this or they’re too that. And we drill them about their past votes without considering that they were doing something part of the greater good even though it may not totally make sense to everyone else.

I guess my goal for myself and anyone within my sphere of influence... is that we try harder. That we gain a little more compassion and a little less "I'm right, you're wrong" mentality. I'd like to try harder to think less about a general issue and more about individual people with lives and experiences and goals. 

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