Having survived a scorched-earth divorce and after witnessing other divorces, it appears that bad divorces have an uncanny resemblance to the Republican and Democratic fighting. With the political season in full throttle, my stress level is increasing. I have a difficult time watching our political news unfold, as it reignites post-traumatic stress syndrome symptoms: anxiety, headaches, nightmares, irritability and a feeling like you don't have a future. When we experience a traumatic event that involves the threat of injury, loss or death or having experienced a natural disaster, our bodies are likely to react to other uncomfortable situations with similar stress. As I feel more uncomfortable, I have to ask, "When did politicians start acting like the worst of our exes?"
A Bad Divorce or Politics as Usual?
The division of property and assets in a divorce are similar to the division of states and religious beliefs in our country; we expect separation. We may start out negotiating with the best of intentions and striving to find common ground, as there was a time when we were friends and coworkers. We seem to have forgotten the time when our children's needs were foremost and we came together during tragedy. Our private lives and our political structure have broken down and even simple negotiations for the common good, have become impossible. We are a country focusing on the small stuff and dismissing the more complex issues. We see family courts pushing a settlement regardless of the children's welfare and we witness politicians engaged in idiotic arguments that serve only to waste time. We should care if our children are safe, but instead insignificant details fabricated for distraction become paramount and the bigger picture is missed altogether.
An early settlement deal is always proposed and when it becomes diluted, it accomplishes less than what we need. When our opinions are discounted and we are treated with disdain regardless of the merit of the solution we are proposing, we become shut down. Once we compromise again and it is thrown in our face, we take a hard stand as a conservative, moderate Republican, harder-line Republican, Democrat or liberal Democrat. Demanding an identity only creates opposition and the settlement predictably goes awry. Attacking each other for not being liberal enough, too liberal or too conservative becomes the norm. This is politics, but it is also parenting. Differences in how we chose to govern our families or our country, drives us to a place where settlement is unavailable. Our politics and our relationships turn toxic.
Once the accusations begin, any inherent trust we had in each other is questioned and we claim failed economic policies and/or failed parenting choices. Fear, rumors, blame and distorted facts emerge. The situation becomes acrimonious; Private investigations, litigation, claims, subpoenas inflammatory and inaccurate allegations follow. We are witnesses to massed produced fears on a national stage and through a divided media. We all move into our respective corners clutching our dogmatic beliefs, secure in the knowledge that we are right and they are wrong. No matter what is presented at this point, it will not be heard, as our disdain is so high; we are completely polarized. Politicians treat each other as exes and we treat our ex's as politicians. We refuse to listen to reason and we are wedded to our rhetoric.
Facts vs. Beliefs
The stronger our beliefs are, the less open we become to any opinion that is not our own. When we learn to distrust facts, we begin to argue the scientific evidence. When we refuse to listen with an open mind and heart, we will never hear what is really being said. It is gratifying to be agreed with, but this should not be our soul objective. When beliefs are presented as facts in family court, the outcome fails those it was intended to protect and we become unable to trust our memories and ourselves. When our government is above questioning and engages in manipulation, we become followers who are led.
When all related matters have been settled, and a resolution on the issues is agreed upon, we hope for closure and the ability to move forward. I have learned that people operate from the same two motivations: to fulfill their desires and to avoid suffering. Understanding this made sense of how people, even after coming to a settlement, will continue to hurt each other. The need to "set the record straight" or "have the last word" after the settlement will ultimately lead us back to the beginning of this destructive cycle. Watching the current political discourse, reminds me of my destructive divorce and I'm finding it impossible to watch the lies, the judgment and the demeaning attitudes that seem to be the norm. Politicians have the right to represent us; they don't have the right to act as our exes.
The halls of the Capitol and the corridors of family court are filled with volatile and hateful discourse. As long as we continue to ignore the common ground we share, refuse to compromise rationally and continue to serve only our best interests and not those of our family and communities, the more it will erode any possibility of political consensus, or family unity and peace.