“We do not see things as they are; we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin
I have thought of this quote often as I listen to political discussions and read internet posts during this election year. I have always been passionate in my beliefs and opinions, often unable to understand why someone could be just as passionate about an opposing view. Fortunately, time and life experiences have brought me to a place where I can finally see that each of us forms our view of the outside world and its many contradictions based on our own unique circumstances.
My first true understanding of this reality came shortly after the deaths of my mother and my aunt in the early 2000’s. My sister, my two cousins, and I spent time together as we worked through our grief. As we sifted through our memories, I was surprised to find how differently we each remembered people, places, and events. Memories that seemed perfectly clear to me were often seen from a totally different perspective by my sister and cousins. How could this be? We were all talking about the same memory. This was unsettling to me — I had always trusted my memories, and yet discovered that quite possibly what I remembered was merely MY version. Long before we are exposed to formal education, our perception is already colored by our basic personality and our individual circumstances.
Several years ago we attended a movie about the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 with close friends. I remembered this event vividly — I was an anxious child and felt a tremendous sense of foreboding – a fear that our country would be destroyed by nuclear war before I had a chance to grow up. My friends, on the other hand, barely remembered those few brief days in history. For whatever reasons, at that moment in their lives it did not carry enough significance to remain a clear memory as it had for me.
And so it is with our political turmoil today. We each see the basic problems facing our nation, but we view the causes and solutions to these problems from opposite perspectives. The wise person takes the time to read and listen carefully about the issues and the candidates, and makes a decision on the candidates to support; sometimes, this decision is difficult because none of the candidates seem to represent what we believe is best for us all.
What troubles me this year is the rage and anger that seems to erupt when the election is discussed. One post on Facebook can provoke a tirade of nasty comments. The contentiousness among “friends” is particularly upsetting. What we must all remember is that each one of us has come to our decision based on our view of the world; denigrating someone else’s choice is not going to change what they support or how they vote. We are all different; we all hold different beliefs and see the world from our own perspective, and many of us have agonized over the choices in this particular election. We do not want to hear any more divisive rhetoric.
Most importantly, though, as we hastily spew out hurtful words to friends and family who disagree with us, we must remember that the world goes on no matter who wins the election. All we can hope is that the person who wins has the wisdom to lead the country forward. Our hateful disagreements and nasty Facebook and Twitter posts will do nothing but alienate our friends — and ultimately, family and friends are our most precious treasures. There is nothing wrong with “agreeing to disagree”, and ending a discussion. It is a lonely path we will walk if we do not nurture and cherish our friendships and family ties, even when we disagree.