Whenever the question is posed, Americans will say we hate division and love unity in politics. But our actions reveal a very different story. I don’t need to go into much detail about the state of political discourse in this country. Sadly, the divisive nature of it is plain for all to see. What does need to be said though is what this suggests about us as Americans.
Anyone who claims that this divisive rhetoric is simply a reaction to what they perceive as a threat to their “way of life” simply does not understand democracy. Our system of government was designed to provide a voice to each of us and our desires for a “way of life”. That voice is heard through the ballot box. That, and nowhere else.
Sadly, those of us growing up in the US see division being actively and enthusiastically celebrated at every turn. Human against human competition is seen as “the way the world works”. It is practiced in everything from business to athletics. Why, then, should it surprise us when it appears as a theme in our own system of government. Indeed, democracy was designed specifically to avoid this very tendency of humans.
And only humans engage in competition for “fun”. Sports are the prime example of this. Advocates of human-on-human athletic competition will point to the rules as proof that it is just a game, but those rules thinly veil the true intent: to satisfy the ego’s undying need to dominate and “win”. That is not a quality of humanity, but rather only a satisfaction of the ego.
The source of this behavior is the human species’ freakish over-capacity for logic. From whence it came no one will ever know. Perhaps God just goofed. But never forget that it is this capacity for logic that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. The rest of the animal kingdom never seeks to modify its environment; only humans do this.
The mechanism of logic is the search for perfection and dominance over our environment and circumstances. Perfection and dominance are antithetical to humanity, yet competition knows only one goal: winning. And so it has also become the goal of governing. Logic shows up as results that are unsustainable (war is meant to have an end sometime prior to total destruction of everyone involved).
Humanity, and therefore democracy itself, will only prevail when we identify this satisfaction of the ego as something to be merely acknowledged and sometimes tolerated, but never celebrated. Yet sports are celebrated around the world. This is because we — as a species — have failed to distinguish between our outlandish capacity for logic and our humanity. The two are not only separate and distinct, but mutually exclusive. The more we celebrate competition between ourselves — whether the form is a “friendly game” or civil war within a nation — the less human we become.
Democracy is the last form of government that seemed to acknowledge this distinction, but we, as a people, have forgotten it. When you look at the current state of politics in this county, you see the earmarks of competition all over it. We gladly and zealously participate in the intent to dominate and win the game of governing by destroying the other side, rather than acknowledging the imperfect humanity of the governed. That ploy will only succeed when it coincides with the destruction of democracy itself.
Winning is not the goal of governing; providing an environment that nurtures our humanity is. That means those who believe in and practice democracy must graciously allow and even celebrate the opinions of others as much as we claim to celebrate democracy itself. This requires that we acknowledge the drives of logic and see those tendencies in ourselves, but do not allow them to invade our system of government. That means, sometimes, not winning.
Since politics is only discussed in our culture as a satisfaction of the ego — the need to be right — this is how I practice democracy in my own life. I simply do not discuss any of my opinions about any specific or general policies and practices of government with others. As I mentioned, democracy has given me a platform for that; it is called the ballot box. That is the one and only place where my values regarding the management of our society will ever be expressed. All other attempts to make my opinions known would simply demonstrate a disdain for democracy.
When it comes to being informed, I only devote attention to factual reports on what has actually happened (past tense); never what should have happened or what should happen in the future. That is simply not news and, therefore, of no interest to me.
Can you imagine what a different country this would be if we simply shut up about our own political beliefs? Just, for a moment, refuse to be right. I suggest that to do so is to honor democracy. Any attempt to convince others of how right you are is to participate in the destruction of it.
I might also recommend that we take a serious look at our celebration of competition between humans in this county in all its forms. If we continue to see them as just “games” and “fun” we will perpetuate the belief that it is “the way the world works”. We will also fail to connect the dots between “fun” and the destruction of the only form of government that offers you a voice.