A Democracy Incapable of Empathy

I’ve been going through a personal hell –  that to me, feels painfully relatable and parallel to the much bigger-picture event happening in America. The amount of crippling, but unidentifiable loneliness that I feel on so many fronts is uncomfortable. Not just as a hardworking individual, but as a citizen of a society, industry, and country that keeps claiming, that if we can just unite, and come together, and work with each other, it will be okay.shutterstock_322455632

The past few days have led me to feel even more alone lost in thought, more confused, and more disappointed.  Not in the electoral process, well, maybe. But for the most part, it’s proven to work or not work depending on who you ask. I’m not even mad Trump got elected. I’m not even mad that both candidates sucked so badly there wasn’t a good option come November 8th. I’m just disappointed it came to this. And that no one could made it stop before the joke was on us. While I disagree with many, I applaud the 50-57% of our nation that cares enough about the future of the world that they try to help. The other 90 million that cannot find a moment to vote, it’s those people I worry the most about. Those people that threaten our democracy. And I hope they know it.

I believe in humanity, but I am gravely worried about the human psyche and our collective ability to look out for one another, in a kind, respectful manner. We are moving from a patriotic, united approach to a nationalistic, insecure, jealous country. One that has little sympathy, but more upsettingly, a complete inability to be empathetic.  We simply cannot remove our self from our thoughts. We cannot imagine another path in life but our own. Where we came from, how we overcame, the ways we are gipped, and what we expect from others. What’s missing is what we owe to others.  I’ve been consumed the past few days trying to understand how this large and diverse of a nation could be in so much pain, and continue to fight with such hurtful words.

The Hypocrisy of Choice

Inherently, each of us can mold our future and find a way to be successful. But let us not forget that we don’t get to choose the environment or circumstance we are born into. Does anyone choose to be diagnosed at 8 months with a neurological disorder that causes physical deformities and learning disabilities No. Did the little baby born to a heroin addict that can’t even function enough to install a car seat just have bad luck? Sure as fuck not. Did the sweet little boy, born with prune belly in Ethiopia, deserve to spend his first few months in an orphanage? No. Does the kid born into a wealthy bureaucratic family that spoils them royally get the harsh reality of life. No. End of story.

What we do get to choose is our response to whatever mis/fortune we are granted. We also get to choose the depths we are willing to go to understand others. If we have the right to suggest our views on pro-life or pro-choice, it’s time we also start caring about the lives of those choosing to create or not,  and the new lives, once they are a part of our sometimes challenging world.

I’d be the first to agree that Washington should represent the views of the American public, and when a change is necessary, respect those that demand it most. I just feel sorry our system is overshadowed by the divisiveness and hostile personalities seen on social and in the media, and now in the White House. I feel sorry that so many found themselves to be so angry or above it, that they didn’t feel a need to vote.  We spend millions of dollars on programs to ASK/BEG people to vote (while so many abroad would risk their life for a chance to live here) and then question spending millions on programs to sustain life, liberty and happiness.  We will spend billions on programs to build infrastructure in communities that may literally wash away in 75 years, because we aren’t thinking about the long-term – our need for immediacy has grown even more selfish. Decisions and change are about how it makes us, our party, our generation look. That’s it.

Most of all, though, my heart breaks knowing we are a group of adults that were failed by either nature or nurture and are plagued with such deep insecurities – including our President-elect. It’s hard to feel alone. To feel critiqued. To feel ashamed or to think you don’t deserve love/acceptance. It can be easy to put on a show. To pretend it doesn’t matter. To fight back. It’s easier than dealing with the pain.  This country has lost their mind so indefinitely, that they are willing to throw support behind someone who’s self-worth is measured by the ability to pull off a large scale, media promoted stunt. We should be worried not about the pain we’ve inflicted on each other’s parties, but the root cause. We, as a nation, aren’t emotionally capable or intellectually educated enough to recognize that our brains are wired to react this way, and we must respond appropriately.  When reading a blog post on the topic, this statement spoke to me: “people’s neural empathic responses are diminished when witnessing pain endured by someone they dislike, or someone from a different social group. We can strive to be good people, but sadly it seems our brains often reveal the darker side of human nature.”

I am not mad at Donald Trump. I think he, is a product of a terribly unloving, materialistic, and cynical upbringing.  On Nov 10, when I saw him sitting next to Obama in their first press meeting, I felt bad for him. I really believe he doesn’t want to be President. He got so caught up in planning his wedding, he didn’t think about what he’d talk about and who he’d talk to on the honeymoon, let alone the first trying years of marriage. You want to blame the GOP, as the parents who are so stubborn they support an arranged marriage they know will fail. The next four years of his life are going to be full of the very feelings that drove him to this flawed mismatched fit, and he will probably die trying to prove his worth. And what will this be like for him? I’ll sadly predict, four years of insecurity, behind the scenes wife-shaming (for making him look dumb), painful hours of studying, and regardless of what happens in the next four years – it will be his fault.

Both parties can agree that he is not necessarily qualified to lead the Military or represent the US in foreign relations. Maybe that’s okay and he will learn. We’ve all been unable to get jobs that require experience, without the ability to gain it. But my deepest hope from this situation is that President-Elect Trump quickly changes his tone, becomes more generous and gracious, develops a sense of compassion and understanding, and critically realizes the need for the first time in his life, to shift from ‘me’ to ‘we.’

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Start with the Why. The Rest Will Follow.

Throughout your career and life, you have the opportunity to make choices that will lead you down the path to what you consider ‘success.’ This path may look very different each year, or even week, but most likely it’s always a very good indicator of what you are meant to be doing at the given time, and directly related to your purpose, or your ‘why.’ Starting With Why

Ask yourself about the past week or two, and what you’ve been achieving, and where you’ve been procrastinating. When you actually dig deep, it’s easy to see what your focus is and the lengths you’ll take to achieve it. Looking back on my year, I can pinpoint key defining moments:

  • Why did I devote months of time to a project at work?
  • Why did one colleague make me think more about my future and career/life trajectory than anything one else over the course of 13 years?
  • Why did I stop worry so much about my son’s medical future and stop googling?
  • Why did I start working out so hard again?
  • Why am I procrastinating on assignments at work?
  • Why am I so willing to ditch housework and preconceived ideas about ‘the way to live’ to fulfill my own happiness?
  • Why did I stop watching TV 11 months ago?
  • Why am I determined to be closer to family?
  • Why does traveling without a set destination seem so important to shaping my boys personalities?

I can tell you an exact reason for each of these. I won’t. But all of these items are questions that I am answering by actions and decisions unbeknownst to me at times, but all that make complete sense to me as I keep pushing forward into what I know is next. They are all grounded in who I am as a person and what I want my legacy to be. Curiosity. Hard work. Passion for experiences. Greater understanding and education. An open heart free of judgement about people’s life decisions.

We know it‘s imperative that successful companies should start with the why when strategic planning and defining values for their employees to abide by. And we, as professionals, individuals, parents, and seekers should as well.  No ones life should have a strategic plan to follow (but a two year plan is cool), but if you can’t wake up everyday, and answer ‘what am I going to accomplish today’ with the guiding force of ‘why you are doing it’ – re-calibrate and start over.

 

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