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The Unspoken Addiction

John is a middle-school business teacher, happily married since 1989 and grateful to have been given the gift of life.

the-unspoken-addiction

Should We Split the Nation?

We are hearing more about the USA splitting, one political side or the other seceding from the nation. That’s what I feel like doing right now. The job’s a constant energy drain, so is my emotional reaction to world events. Dreaming of a secluded mansion alone in the middle of a giant forest with the wife, daughter, dogs and cats and our shared adventures, and large workshop. Nobody is around to annoy me or try to slice and dice my freedom, tell me what’s best for me or pretend they care. So people talk of splitting the USA. Apparently, the “sides'' have nothing in common, not even the most basic things like the definition of male and female. So it’s time to split? Don’t think so.

Splitting Our Nation? We might as Well Split Our "Selves!"

As much as I’d like to flex my political self-righteous muscles, I realize splitting the country would just be ignoring the real problem. We would be separated from the people who we should be “in the practice of loving!” That’s right: instead of splitting we should reaffirm our common ground and learn from each other, honoring our fellow citizens by virtue of their presence in our lives, sharing our stories, experiences and views. All we seem to have now are ego-fueled shouting matches and physical altercations. Judge and dismiss. Yeah, technology advancement sure has helped us advance…(read: sarcasm). Further, splitting the country would not solve anything. The two new factions would have infighting within each and then they would split and so on and our geopolitics would become a big human “fission” chain reaction.

We Had to Split From Great Britain!

When the thirteen colonies left Britain, there were good reasons for secession, mostly involving the denial of the pursuit of happiness to the colonists. Taxation without representation, requiring colonies to repay Britain for defending them in the French/Indian War, and colonists having to house British soldiers after the war had ended are two examples. Further, trade was rigged such that Britain had a monopoly on the sale of certain goods to the colonists; colonists had no choices in the purchase of goods. Finally, colonists were prohibited from settling too far west as Britain wanted to control expansion for its own ends. These issues were life compromising for the colonists. Britain’s treatment of the colonists long ago would be like a foreign government today taxing American citizens for its own enrichment, or having geographic mobility restrictions placed upon us limiting our community and housing choices! Or what if we had only one choice of car, clothing or bread brands? America is about freedom of choices, and we still have that, thankfully. So why are there calls for “splitting us up?”

The Unspoken Addiction is Hatred!

The answer seems to be that we are “divided” as a country, that we will never agree on certain “critical” standards which define a country. The media promulgates this “tribalism.” Sadly, however, the division we feel is actually hatred! But no one wants to say it; instead, we say the other side's politics are "destroying the country" and they say the same thing about us. The news we watch is a combination of "tribal" entertainment and information; as such, it has an addictive nature. I want the news I watch to assuage my anger at “the other side,” but like illicit drugs, I want more than I can get. Hatred feels good, just like addictive drugs do. We must stop this hatred addiction! We must embrace our common ground, stopping political division from being the center point of our existence. We are a decent People, found on BOTH sides of politics!

We are Not Divided!

I don’t think our nation is “divided,” like lots of people like to say, like it is the end of our country. Most of us are careful and respectful people; this is our common ground! But we have forgotten that it is an absolute privilege and honor and gift to exist on this planet with other human beings! Instead, we take pride in expelling others from our hearts because they are different, whether it be skin color or presidential choice. Yes, we are divided on politics, but that is the way it has always been and always should be! We can learn and grow from our differences. We should not seek to have some unanimous society, in which everyone agrees; it would be a fool’s errand. Rather, we should “seek to understand those with opposing viewpoints before expecting them to understand ours.” We should try to gain a core understanding of the values which drive the ideas of those with whom we disagree instead of trying to win the argument. The news shows and other forces, like the availability of social media technology are giving us all voices “heard around the world” via the Internet; this power tends to corrupt and addict us, placing us into “warring” tribes, feeding us what we need to grow our hatred towards each other, just as an addict ingests their drug. We are the prostitutes of the news media pimps!

The News Media Causes it but it's Not Their Fault!

Without the news media, I don’t think we would be as spiteful, as we grope and sniff around the Internet for “table scraps” to feed our hatred for the other side. That being said, the media has a right to their free speech and therefore it is our responsibility to analyze their output in terms of our own values to determine if it helps our understanding of the news events. I am addicted myself, so sure the world should be the way I envision it, frustrated by family members and friends who don’t think as I do. Despite my addiction, I am usually able to see past the muck and have good relationships, though these get tested at times. I am a functioning hate-a-holic. I have been trying to remember to seek to understand the point of view of the other person, instead of forcing them into my "club." But this denies me my “high” and I often fail as my hungry ego strangles me. But since I admit that I am an addict, I can continue to fight My addiction. The unfortunate aspect to this epidemic is that it is a problem which cannot be solved, only managed. There is no vaccine or government program. Just us.

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We Must Look Inside Ourselves.

The news-entertainment hatred pandemic is just as serious as the COVID and opioid crises. Hatred is just as contagious/habit-forming. We lament our disease and drug problems, but we are unwilling to face and fight our own propensity to grow hatred. This is true because we are the "killers" and "maimers" ourselves and not viruses or drugs; we are uncomfortable looking for solutions within ourselves because it injures our egos and requires the heavy effort of self-reflection and mind-remapping. It’s a much easier “feel-good” to fight disease with the mighty CDC and fight drugs with the omnipotent DEA. Developing vaccines and drug-control policies does not require that we take stock of our personal dysfunctional ideas and convictions, and vow to change them. Viruses and drugs cannot embrace morality; we can!

We Have What it Takes. We Just Have to Dig a Little.

The management of this mess is twofold and it must take place within each of us, including this author. First, we must regularly remind ourselves to be amazed and grateful for what we have, without comparing ourselves to others, and what we have is the gift of a life. Second, we must recognize and reject the hatred that has seeds and soil in each of us and is being fomented by the endless “drug hits” of news-entertainment and our endless quests for gratification. We must realize that existing with others of different viewpoints is an opportunity to learn, not a call to fight, and that folks with conflicting views don’t need to have conflicts, but rather, conversations. There is nothing wrong with agreeing to disagree and seeking compromise. We must seek to embrace the differences in our fellow citizens, realize they are not threats and love them. In doing so we will discover ourselves! Pick the person who is most different from you and celebrate them. I am a hypocrite because I write this but I have not done it, yet! I’m working on it!

The Hatred That Causes Political Strife is the Same One Causing Racial Strife!

We can’t choose the color of our skin, so we should not prejudge or mistreat people based on skin color: we know this. But I assert that the crux of the political hatred problem of which we currently mire ourselves is the same hatred as racial strife! Dr. Jonathan Haidt’s research (The Righteous Mind book) strongly suggests that, like our skin color, we don’t choose our politics either; it is prewired into our brains prior to the experience of living! He postulated five moral foundations we all innately embody to various degrees, which we use to form our political convictions: care/harm foundation, fairness/cheating foundation, loyalty/betrayal foundation, authority/subversion foundation and sanctity degradation foundation. Dr. Haidt suggests that the Left primarily utilizes the care/harm and fairness/cheating foundations while the Right utilizes all five foundations. But we don't think concretely in terms of "five foundations;” it's just that our individual moralities have been biologically "pre-organized" in different ways around the overall emotional content of these foundations. And this is why each of us are predisposed to unique political views. It is also why we should not hate our fellow citizens for their opposing views: their views are their truths!

I remember being at a friend's house recently. He was playfully asking me why I wouldn't just admit that his convictions regarding our COVID argument (the shutdowns of 2020 were necessary) were "correct." We often discuss politics, and being from opposite sides, those discussions can foster some emotional ranting from both of us. Sometimes I would wonder why we were friends, given our political posturing. What I realized that day was that we are friends because of a foundation of respect for diversity of opinion! We acknowledge the struggle we all face as human beings and that is what we share in common.

But for much of my life, I despised the "other" side. Instead of putting out the effort to immerse ourselves in the uncomfortable “tub” of understanding and accepting these opposing views, I and many fellow citizens take the easy, gratifying route out by draining the tub and washing away all the “filth.” I assert that doing so is the same hatred that powers racism, but with a different costume and props! In other words, despising people for their differing political views is the same evil as despising someone for their skin color! We should not prejudge or dismiss people because of our differing political beliefs! Instead, we should seek to understand their truths and realize that inclusive solutions are worth the effort. People of all types joined together are the most important goal we could ever have!

Time to Make Our Exit From Hatred Highway!

Some would argue that we as a country must have commonality. This is true but we already have it! It’s just trapped and invisible under all the showmanship of politics! This commonality is decency and the desire to help our fellow humankind. We don’t have to be in lockstep agreement on the science of climate change, the definition of gender, the issue of abortion or the teaching of Critical Race Theory. But we do need to be willing to discuss these areas gently, let the three branches do their work, and move on. Imagine there are two people walking along a road arguing about some issue. They are from opposing sides of politics, frustrated with each other for not having the other’s viewpoint. They come upon a situation in which someone needs help: maybe unloading a vehicle or rendering first aid. I am convinced that both of them would rise to the call; decency does not depend on politics or religion! Yet we currently live our lives as though it does. Time to exit this highway, folks. Now.

Source

Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Langara College, 2020.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 John Sebastian

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