December 20, 2016

How to Fight For a Cause—not Against One.

america - values

Now more than ever, it’s essential that we look at those we disagree with and understand their intentions and sources of motivation.  

Currently, there’s a war on knowledge, on progress and on science, particularly the reality of climate change and the inherent equality of all human beings.

In the heat of such debate, those on reality’s side can become flustered, angry, confused, desperate and susceptible to self-destruction. We must find common ground related to our fundamental values, championing for a cause rather than against one.

After the presidential election, I got into a debate with a friend of mine who supports Donald Trump. As a liberal voter, my flight or fight response was to fuel the argument with the resentment and fear I felt. I wasn’t mindful. Ultimately, he placed a Trump hat on my head and I poured a glass of water on his. The only people who benefited were the spectators, who received free entertainment.

A week later, we agreed to meet and walk our dogs around the lake. Enjoying each other’s company in the nature reserve, we apologized for the episode. We decided to have a mindful conversation. I chose curiosity over defensiveness, and tried to find common ground regarding an issue we both cared about.

I told him how much I cared about the environment, explaining my position on the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and the belief that short-term profits of the oil industry shouldn’t jeopardize the long-term health of our planet. My friend, with a demanding job in finance, hadn’t taken a look at the DAPL issue. He humbly asked me to explain what was going on in North Dakota. After our discussion, he agreed, he wants to protect the future of our planet, supports a shift to renewable energy and believes that many environmentally harmful projects are short-sighted and should be reconsidered.

We must be vigilant in understanding the difference between a disagreement on the fundamental issues, and a discussion regarding the ways in which we can best deal with the problems presented to us. Particularly after the election, I’ve tried to approach arguments by first looking at the root issue, and next the avenues available to impact change.

Any form of hatred misdirected away from the real issues is a waste of our precious time and energy. Life is too short and we have too much potential to be so easily fooled. Instead of bashing the use of charitable funds, meditators looking down upon mindfulness programs and apps, to vegans shaming those with “less of a commitment,” and traditional yogis looking down upon the Western form of vinyasa, we could redirect our energies and pick our battles wisely. Let’s recognize that most of us are doing our best, although our means of doing so may differ drastically.

Any step toward the greater good demands respect in my eyes. This is when we pick our battles, be cautious in how we stifle those with similarly good intentions, and try to educate those with a different perspective about our view.

We saw the inability of negative campaign tactics to win the election for the Democrats. Instead of focusing on core issues, a majority of us see as a blatant reality, whether equality, climate change, minority and women’s rights, the campaigns harped on the personal flaws and scandals of the candidates. We failed to find common ground apart from hatred toward the opponent’s character, and we failed to effectively champion our shared values. We are stronger when we fight for something, rather than against it.

Perhaps the outcome would have been different if we focused on the fundamental issues facing an increasingly distorted society which favors the extreme concentration of power at the top. I hope that we all seek to educate ourselves, hold our leaders accountable and not just wait around until we can fill in the row of bubbles under “our party’s column” at the polls in four years.

I am more than a Democrat, a liberal, a Millennial, an environmentalist, a woman. I stand with those from all walks of life to act as global citizens. We must work together to protect our world, its current inhabitants and those to come—all of us, Democrats, Republicans, unaffiliated—it’s our responsibility and our right.




Author: Shoshanna Delventhal

Image: Author’s Own

Editor: Travis May

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Shoshanna Delventhal