I would be remiss, on election day, if I didn’t provide my heartfelt thanks to President Trump. While, principally, I want to thank him for what he has taught me–and so many in this country, the credit is not just his. It also belongs to the Republican and Democratic leadership in this country, all have contributed to my education. Their behaviors in the past 4 years have contributed to the this valuable lesson–so it’s important to recognize all of them and thank them.
The last 4 years have been a wake up call to me. Sadly, I have taken my responsibilities as a citizen for granted. Of course, I vote in each election, but beyond that, I have largely trusted that our elected officials will be relatively “responsible” in their conduct in doing the “citizens'” business.
Sure, I haven’t agreed with many of the things that have happened in the past, I have disagreed with positions on issues, I have disagreed with various administrations and elected officials. But I always trusted that, over time, more of the right things would be done than those things that put our democracy and those things we have valued as citizens at risk.
I have simply not been paying attention, for years, perhaps decades. I have been naive in my assumptions, and irresponsible by not being more active in watching and engaging on things critical to us as citizens.
But what is most alaming is the polarization of everything and the unwillingness of our elected officials to consider different positions and ideas. It’s been their focus on protecting their position and power, rather than a focus on the country and our citizens. It’s the sudden realization that even the elected representatives of my own party are not driven by the needs and priorities of their own membership, but by that which protects their own interests.
Of course this is nothing new, but it seems to have been driven to extremes in the past four years.
Sadly, this polarization and intolerance of differences has reached all of us. The other day, I was speaking with a good friend. We couldn’t be more opposite in who we support in this Presidential election. Yet we respect each other too much to let these differences come between us–we simply have different opinions and we are each entitled to them. Sadly, he recounted members of his family and close friends that won’t talk to him because of his views. And I have some acquaintances that won’t talk to me, because of the positions I hold.
Even more sadly, what we are seeing in our elected leaders is only a symptom of a greater issue–increasing polarization and tribalization. The inability and unwillingness to consider and appreciate differences in opinion and positions. In all aspects of our lives we are becoming increasingly polarized and intolerant. Whether in politics, in our businesses, our communities, and elsewhere.
And this makes us smaller, as individual, as employees, as members of our communities, and as citizens. There is too much data that shows the more diverse we are in our thinking, the more diverse we are in our ideas, and in the make up of our group, the better we are. We perform better, we innovate better, faster, we are more open to differences.
Instead of recognizing the value of our diverse ideas, values, and backgrounds, we choose to isolate ourselves, to become polarized and tribal. And that only weakens us–as individuals, communities, businesses, and a nation.
It’s hard to see the impact of this in our every day lives. Perhaps it’s we are too close to what’s happening, perhaps we are just blind. So it’s with deep appreciation that I thank our political leaders, through their behaviors, I have learned something, I don’t think I might have learned otherwise.
As tragic as it is to see the polarization that has happened in the past four years, it’s been a huge wake up call to me, and, I suspect, millions of others, that we cannot take things for granted. We cannot stand by, but if we want to protect the things we hold dear about this country, we cannot take our responsibilities as citizens for granted.
And without the actions of President Trump, the Republican and Democratic leadership, I and too many others will have continued to take things for granted, to be blissfully unaware and uninvolved. So I am deeply, though painfully appreciative, of learning this lesson.
Afterword: Based on past posts, I know I will upset a large number of readers. They will say, “You shouldn’t be political, you shouldn’t be doing taking these positions.” Please re-read this. I am not making a political statement, I am making a statement of personal responsibility. It is just that it’s been the behaviors of President Trump, and our elected Democratic and Republican representatives that have made me understand I have failed to fulfill my personal responsibilities as a citizen.
I don’t know that I’m trying to convince you of anything other than we each have the personal responsibility to be actively involved in the direction and future of our country. And even if we hold different positions, by talking and working together we can find solutions and still respect each other when we disagree.
After afterword: It’s also important to recognize that the behaviors and actions we’ve seen from President Trump and our elected representatives are just symptoms of deeper dysfunction in our societies. The increased polarization and tribalism around too many issues–political, business, community, and so forth, deeply threaten our abilities to learn, grow, and thrive.
And a final afterword: Sadly, I know that even this post will be perceived as further polarization, when it is intended to be a call to action for the opposite. And many of you will choose to “unfollow me.” As I thought about this, my first reaction was, “I don’t care….” But that’s the wrong answer. It leads to greater polarization and no learning. So before you choose to unfollow me, consider talking about it with me. While we may to agree to disagree, we can at least learn from each other and learn to respect differing positions.