Settle down America.
And put your social filters back on before you boot up social media. Your emotions are large and in charge. Many of you need an app that reads your posts and rates them on a scale from Howard Stern to Mr. Rogers—it should block them until they reach at least an Ernie Johnson. (Watch his great video to see a rare departure from the whining and gloating in the news media.)
Many of us suffer from “confirmation bias.” That’s where words and actions of a person we distrust reinforce what we already believe about them. Bad behavior of the opposition leads us to cast everything they do in the worst possible light.
Each of us is capable of a little more objectivity. But there’s a sharp requirement: you have to get over yourself–your anxiety, your reactions. It’s going to take more courage than you might think, especially for some of you tortured media “tribe leaders” who believe you’ve cornered the market on compassion or truth.
Credit Edwin Friedman for the following principles that can help anyone fly a little higher over the fray.
Am I looking for the quick fix?
The quick-fix mindset is a huge blindspot, especially for people who put too many eggs in the basket of government. The expectation of a quick fix is a symptom of anxiety and a failure to count the true cost of solving problems. I remember traveling to D.C. as a child with my parents who marveled at how large it had grown–and that was in the 80’s. We’ve been looking to D.C. the way Soviets looked to the Politburo. Instead, the strength of solving social problems is spread across the U.S. Many hands make lighter work. Patience is required.
Do I even want to fix things or just fix blame?
When anxiety is high, blame is cheap therapy. Instead of tweeting opinions as ideas, issues become highly personalized, usually leveraging a victim. Sometimes people lay claim to a victim for their own salvation. If I can make a case that you are mistreating someone because of some social difference, then I can shame you, making them better than you, and making me better than you. An audience will overlook my ad hominem attacks as long as I’m sticking up for an underdog.
This election cycle, the behavior of each party’s candidate has been so obviously bad, the electorate reduced themselves to lobbing grenades of either distrust or disgust. However, since Watergate, we have held leaders to impossible standards. No wonder politics attracts people who just don’t care what others think about them. As someone said, we often get the leaders we deserve.