Brenda Kelley Kim
“In crucial things, unity. In important things, diversity, in ALL things, generosity.”George H. W. Bush
I’m not normally a political junkie, but the past few weeks have found me looking around at local politics, community happenings, and national events and going off on a few rants. OK, perhaps the rants are not unusual for me, but still.
While I haven’t had a summer off since high school, the dog days of July are usually pretty low-key for me. If I’m lucky, there are lots of beach days, dog walks, and maybe a quick weekend in Vermont, but there is always work to do as well, even if it does happen at a slower pace.
However, we cannot deny that all around us, from town issues, to national and even global concerns, it’s a busy time. No matter which side you’re on, is anyone else finding, as I am, that it seems more complicated than it used to be? Elections used to be about picking a candidate you believed could do the job well and get the necessary work done, for the betterment of the community, whether it be local or on a larger scale. I’m trying very hard not to be that cranky voice that laments, “Well, in my day….” Mostly because I refuse to accept that “my day” was any longer ago than last week. Lately, though, I find myself rolling my eyes so hard I can see my brain.
Having run for office, I was lucky enough to go through the process from the candidate side after so many years of simply being a voter. It was an experience that I consider invaluable, even if I didn’t win. Some would say that losing teaches a candidate more than winning does, but not having won, I can’t speak to that. I learned so much, and it’s a poor day when you don’t learn something new, right?
Simply put, nothing is simple anymore. Not that it should be; there are no Cliff Notes for political discourse. Being active and involved in your community requires a commitment to understanding the issues. It’s essentially homework. It’s been 40 years since I sat in a classroom at what is now Marblehead Veterans Middle School, but a good amount of research and study is still required to keep up with what’s happening around me. It’s been eye-opening for sure.
While the quote at the beginning of this article seems to be a rubric for solving any issue, it’s entirely too general. Who defines what unity, diversity, and generosity mean? One person’s generosity is another person’s undeserved handout. Diversity? Oh, good luck figuring that one out. Unity? Do we even have that anymore? United we stand, divided we fall, right? Sadly, I think the division is ruling the day lately. There’s too much finger pointing at whatever side we are not on, too much of the blame game, and not nearly enough listening.
So what is the answer to this divide? Well, wouldn’t I be the Queen of the Universe if I knew that? What I do know, however, is that we need to listen not just to the echoes within our own chamber of experience but to those who say the exact opposite of what we think.
While most people are comfortable spending their time in environments that reflect their values, there is much to be said for the discomfort of an opposing viewpoint. Just the other day, someone I know was talking about an issue, and their opinion could not have been further from mine. Not going to lie; at one point, I had to restrain myself from snort-laughing at something they said that was just so…well, never mind. We’ve all been there.
Family dinners, social gatherings, etc., and someone throws out an opinion. The next thing you know, there’s this awkward silence, perhaps some fuming, and you can practically hear a door slamming shut on any further worthwhile discussion. What a shame. It’s a lost opportunity to at least learn the underpinnings of where someone else is, even if you know you won’t ever be anywhere near that point of view. I made it a point to try and listen though, and not just shut them out entirely.
As the summer flows on, there are still plenty of barbecues, beach days, and soft serve ice cream runs to come. The local election, which included running out of ballots, a recount, and a sudden resignation, is over. We are heading into a primary election for our state representative, not to mention the national midterms.
Is there a better time to commit to learning more, not just about those you support but those you may not? Choose wisely, my friends. There are likely rough seas ahead, and no voyage will be successful if we don’t know enough about why we want to head out in one direction and why we choose to avoid another way. Sometimes you will want to follow the fleet, and other times you’ll sail solo. There could be times when it’s blowing stink out there, but hang on, it’s absolutely worth it.