Politics and Patience

I don't post about politics much anymore. I started my career in politics, and I made a choice to leave that behind. I left for a lot of reasons, chief among them the industry's focus on short-term fixes at the expense of long-term solutions.

I have very little patience for people who don't try to solve problems.

The United States government is shut down. This has now happened eighteen times since 1976. It's not an unprecedented situation. There are a number of reasons why this is happening again. Some are the result of disagreements over policy. Some are the consequences of political posturing. Some are the natural outcome of poor relationship management. All are simple realities that come with a representative government where officials are incentivized to take the short-term view of a long-term problem.

It is very easy to be angry when we see this kind of inefficiency in action. It is very easy to tell to ourselves that government shouldn't be this way. It's very easy to blame those with whom we disagree. It is very easy to tell ourselves that something has gone wrong. It is very easy to lie to ourselves and convince ourselves that we're telling the truth.

For most of us, a government is dysfunctional when it is not quickly and efficiently implementing an agenda closely aligned with our most deeply held beliefs. Those who would oppose the implementation of our personal agendas are obstructionists, and those who would stand with us are reasonable, intelligent citizens. The righteousness of our own point of view is self-evident, and anyone who doesn't share it deserves our scorn.

What a sad way to go through life that is. But how many of us fall into that pattern of thinking without questioning it? It's easy to believe that, because it affirms every positive thought we have about ourselves and every negative thought we have about others.

The issue with this mode of thinking is that eliminates every possible means of solving problems except attrition and brute force. It reduces complex issues to us vs. them battles of will, and the culprits are not our representives or our media or even our enemies.

We are the problem. The voters. The citizens.

It is very easy to be angry when you see obstacles to achieving your utopia. It's much harder to understand why those obstacles are there, and upon understanding, to admit to yourself that they might not be obstacles at all. It's hard to accept that your opponents don't necessarily have to be your enemies, and it's even harder to stop blaming them for not being you.

But this is a republic, and we are here together. No good will come of making enemies of the people with which we have chosen to build a country. And when you damn your opponents for their ignorance and their failure to see the world as you see it, that's exactly what you're doing.

So stop. Take a breath. Quit believing that the people who oppose you have to be monsters. Everyone has their reasons for acting the way they do, and every one of those reasons is real. Maybe none of them make sense to you, and maybe some of them are just wrong, but they're all real and they all matter in this conversation we as a nation must have.

We're more likely to make allies of opponents by understanding them than by assuming that they're idiots. We're more likely to build a civil, productive society by accepting that we're all equally screwed up and wrong, just in different ways. And we're more likely to solve real long-term problems if we accept that doing so takes time, energy, and a hell of a lot of patience.