The solution of selflessness
By Ron Rabou
Like many of you, I exercised my American privilege last week by voting. It’s an exciting time to learn about the individuals who have willingly volunteered their time to serve, and it reminds us we each have a voice in the direction of our country. What I don’t like, however, is the increasing hostility and negativity in America’s political system.
Over the past several weeks, since the hustle and bustle of farming season, I’ve had a chance to tackle some projects I’ve been meaning to work on for years. One such project has been going through totes of pictures – yes, printed, real life, physical photos – my mother gave to me years ago.
While I sit on the floor perusing through parts of my past I’ve nearly forgotten, my youngest son sits next to me, working on his latest Lego masterpiece. We talk about life and occasionally I show him a photograph garnering either a look of amazement – probably because my wife and I looked so much younger when we got married – or one of hysterical laughter – probably because of the sexy shorts I wore in the 80s.
After a few nights of the “blast from the past,” I found myself feeling rather nostalgic. I couldn’t help but ask, “What has changed?” It’s cliché, but I could come up with nothing other than those days were in a much simpler time.
A good day can often end up in the toilet after watching the news or reading a political post on social media. Especially during an election year, the rhetoric often becomes almost unbearable.
Campaigns become less of “why you should vote for me” to more of “why you shouldn’t vote for the other candidate(s).” Friends and neighbors become divided down party lines and the world becomes more about absolutes than it does about understanding, collaboration and compromise.
Political parties and fellow citizens draw a hard line, and their agenda becomes much more about garnering votes to retain power than it ever does about what is best for the American people. Both parties are guilty, and it is a dilemma raising its ugly head no matter who is in power.
Winston Churchill once said, “Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
The underlying message here is, whenever people are involved, no matter the system, people are the ones who always mess it up. We all bring our own experiences, pre-conceived ideas, perceptions, beliefs, influences and backgrounds to the table, only to become massively frustrated when someone disagrees with us.
What if we were to approach not just politics, but everyday life, with the understanding while we should be passionate about our beliefs, maybe we should take a little bit more time genuinely learning about the opposite point of view? We may not agree, but at least we have a better understanding of why the other side or person believes the way in which they do. This can be a huge benefit as we promote our own ideas and agendas in the future.
Is everyone reasonable and will it always work? Of course not, but in the end, our responsibility lies in making our case and casting our vote, with the possibility still in existence we might be disappointed by the results. It’s the way democracy works. Do the best job you can controlling your own narrative, but stop griping when things don’t turn out as you had hoped. Stay positively engaged and work harder next time.
Were times simpler in the old days? In my opinion, yes. I think it boils down to two things: more respect and less selfishness. If we take the time to understand one another, we build mutual respect. But to humble ourselves so we can understand one another, we must first set aside our own selfish desires.
For many of us in today’s world, we are unwilling to set aside our own selfishness. The result, respect can never be built. It’s all about me, what I want and when I want it. I see it nearly every day, even in my little community, “How dare you farm the land that I think I am entitled to.” I also see it on the road, “How dare you go the speed limit. You’re in my way!” And the list goes on.
I’m going to encourage us all to cool the jets. Spend a little bit of time each day doing something which brings some inner peace to help bring some perspective.
Be conscious about your own selfishness by starting at home and at work. Take your eyes off your own needs and be more willing to listen to others. If we each do something, we can all make a difference.