What is the biggest challenge that we, as individuals, face in this time of angry, petty and deceptive politics that has infected our public life and seems to be pulling each of us under, sucking out of us every ounce of our humanity?
It is as if we are in an angry and turbulent ocean. The riptide is carrying us away from shore, and even as we fight with all our strength, it is still pulling us under.
So it is with the riptide of politics of anger and disrespect. We fight and flail with all our strength, and lose our battle in the ocean of politics by our own anger and mean-spiritedness.
So what can we do to save ourselves and not give up our strong political beliefs and principles?
I have no magic answers. I’m still caught in that riptide. But I think there are things we can do to calm our personal waters without giving up our commitment to participate in the political system and try to strengthen our country and improve the lives of its citizens.
Here are a few things I am going to try to do:
1. Cut back or cut out cable news and opinion channels. Instead, watch the informative and enriching programs like those on UNC-TV’s Explorer and North Carolina channels.
2. Be kind to those who oppose you, even when they show no kindness and reek of anger.
3. Resist mean-spiritedness. It is so easy to let provocative statements that ooze with anger jar us off balance and tempt us to respond in a similar fashion. Such responses are almost always ineffective and drag us down to the level of the person who made the original statement.
4. Think critically, check facts, and frame your conversation about issues based on your own thinking, rather than on what people on your side have asserted. In The New Yorker in 1983, Ken Auletta wrote that the most important thing he had learned was to “have an independent mind — to think for oneself, to analyze by oneself, not to follow fashions, not to think like everyone else, not to seek honor or decorations, not to become part of the establishment.”
5. Build relationships with people who have distinctly different political views. Find ways to work with them in areas in which you both can agree to be helpful to others. Habitat for Humanity, prison ministries, and food services seem to be able to gather volunteers from all political persuasions to work together. In a recent column in The Herald-Sun, retired minister Joe Harvard asked, “When someone does something to you that hurts or something happens that shakes you to the core, how do you respond?”
His answer: Build bridges.
6. Set aside a quiet time each day for reflection. In your prayers or meditations, seek wisdom rather than ask for specific help for your partisan political cause.
7. Generously support those who’ve taken on the burden of political service, and even give appropriate moral support to officials with whom you disagree.
8. Rejoice when there are unexpected acts of kindness from opponents. For instance, the next time the governor sends out cookies for you when you are demonstrating in front of the governor’s mansion against him or her, be gracious. Take a break and invite the governor to come eat the cookies with you before you go back to your protest.
9. Be cheerful, even when it hurts.
11. Don’t give up your fight for your principles, but never give in to the evil mean-spiritedness that too many others on all sides have adopted.
Don’t let that riptide of angry politics pull you under. Swim away, find calm waters, and save yourself.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV.