Politics not worth energy

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Politics was my least favorite thing when I worked in the newspaper business. Send me to do an interview for a feature story or to cover education and I enjoyed it.

Heck, I liked picking up police reports better than anything related to politics. It made my head hurt to sort through who said what, if there were facts behind the words and how to write a story that informed without taking sides.

I’m not in the newspaper world anymore, but I still don’t like politics. I think campaigning is nastier and it is harder to discern who is speaking truth and who is spinning a version of truth to fit their agenda.

Where does that leave voters? Well, confused and plain tired.

So, I decided to do what I do with things that stir me up inside — sit quietly and see what surfaces. What came up is how easily I get into arguing and side choosing.

It doesn’t take much to send me into defending my position and listing the reasons the other side is wrong. When I am in that space, there is no communicating, only a war of words.

It takes a lot of energy to fight a war and there are going to be casualties. Sometimes what dies in the fight are friendships and even relationships with family. When I am entrenched in my way of seeing things and the other person just as sure of his or her way, we both loose sight of any connection between us, maybe forever if the battle for our positions is heated.

The last few days I read statements from local candidates and from those in races outside our state that bumped up against what I agree with inside where my opinions live. My first impulse was to point out the reasons the statements were not only wrong, but also stupid.

I wrote a column in my head designed to show the ridiculousness of what the candidates that I do not feel a connection with said. Oh, it was going to be a good one sure to convince folks of the wrongness of those candidates.

Then in midst of this, an interesting thing happened. I stopped to check how I felt physically. It was not good. My body was tense and stiff. There was a frown on my face and a kind of gripping feeling inside my chest.

So, I took a breath and tried to distance myself from the emotions. Not an easy thing when you are in the energy of conflict. After a few minutes of breathing, I calmed down and loosened up a bit. From that place, I thought clearer and felt less reactive, more able to look at things without intense emotion. That, I think, is how I need to approach politics.

I’m not saying I’ll abandon what I think is best or not vote for the person that feels like the right choice. I am saying I need to stop arguing about it.

I can state how I feel without anger and make my choice without battling everyone who doesn’t agree with me. I can grant them the same right I desire — the right to believe as they wish and support whom they wish. I can refuse to play the “I’m right and you are wrong” game because no one wins that game.

So from now on when the political machine cranks out something that stirs me up, I’m going to ask myself, “Is it worth giving up my peace to react to this?”

If my answer is no, I’ll let it go. Then I’ll listen to my gut about the right choice for me when voting time comes and let everyone else do the same without arguing for my choice.

After all, we have to live together after we go to the polls. So, it is best not do or say stuff that permanently damages our ability to do that peacefully.