Another new year is upon us, and with it comes the promise of fresh starts, new challenges, and opportunities to step up.
At the same time, the turn of the calendar can be paralyzing. If we feel stuck, let down, or hopeless about our circumstances, it can seem as though nothing we do matters or makes a difference. So why bother?
I have the sense that this is how many people feel about the state of our nation. We’ve just endured a contentious midterm-election year, and regardless of our political beliefs, or who won or lost their bids, it’s tough to argue that our country or our representatives were at their best. Many of us are frustrated with the teardown nature of politics — the polarizing discourse, the hostility, the divisiveness — yet we’re not sure there’s anything we as individuals can do to stop it.
I get it. I’ve had to consciously step away and be less immersed in politics at times. But I think now we have an opportunity to encourage our leadership to focus less on partisanship and more on collaboration. I’d like to make the case that we have to do this for the sake of our country’s health as a whole.
Just as our bodies suffer when our physical, mental, and emotional well-being are inundated with unhealthy in-puts, so does our democracy. Chronic stress can lead to widespread discontent, whether it happens in the human body or in a society. If we continue on this negative trajectory, things will continue to break down, leaving a lot of problems for future generations to deal with.
I believe we can reverse this course by making it clear to our leaders that we expect them to pursue a more positive, cooperative path. Instead of passively standing by, we have to challenge them to shift from focusing on what’s wrong with the other side’s point of view to working together toward policies that move all of us forward.
And now is the time: This month, as officials take the positions we elected them to, we have to hold them accountable to honorably work for the good of our country and its citizens. We have to respectfully demand that, rather than spending their time and energy (and our resources) on in fighting, they constructively debate the issues and offer up collaborative solutions with the best interests of our nation and its people at the forefront.
So whether or not you’re worried about the status quo, I think we can all agree that we want to be part of creating a society that’s better than the one we inherited and more positive than the one we’re in. And we can do this by taking action.
Perhaps it’s making phone calls or sending emails or letters to state and national representatives or showing up at the local city-council meeting. It might be joining a social movement that sends a loud and clear message to our leaders that we expect more. Adding #politicsforthegoodofall on social posts to our leaders could be the thing that gets their attention and inspires others to get involved, too.
They may seem small, but these actions could, in fact, set the wheels in motion for significant change, progress, or growth.
As we ask for this behavior from our leaders, we also need to commit to it in our own lives. Instead of engaging in combative discussions with someone who holds a differing opinion, try to shift the conversation to why you’re both passionate about a topic in the first place. See where you can find common ground. Remember that there’s a reason this person is in your life, and start from a place of mutual respect.
Our opinions and beliefs are part of us, but they don’t define or make up the whole of who we are. We have to remember that when it comes right down to it, we’re more alike than different.
I believe that each of us has it in us to create the change we want to see in our world if we’re willing to take responsibility, step outside our comfort zones, and stand up for what we believe. It starts with us, but it doesn’t end with us. We can show not only our leaders but also future generations that there is a better, more united way.