Consecutive Days Riding: 136 Consecutive Days Blogging: 118
Today’s Mileage: 5 Total Trip Mileage: 953
I ride the bike this evening not only to advance my progress on my pilgrimage journey, but to also release some frustration from an incidence that occurred earlier today. I started my day by reading a news story about President Obama’s Health Care meeting with congressional Republicans. So when I saw one of my colleague’s open door I decided to greet him and ask for his opinion on the impending meeting. This colleague is not a member of the psychology faculty but in another discipline. We stand on opposite poles with respect to our view on politics and religion. I have learned from past experience to temper my expectations, choose my opportunities to speak with him with deliberation and forethought. I hoped we might agree on the significance of the gathering.
I stopped in his doorway, greeted him and ask him what he thought of today’s upcoming healthcare event. In hindsight I have to say: “I know what I was doing, but what in the world was I thinking?” For no sooner did I raise the topic then he made this statement: “All Obama is going to do is deny the real issues.” I was puzzled and asked him what he meant. He then commented: “Rep. Wilson was right in calling Obama a liar!”
At that moment I did something unusual for me! I pride myself on my control, on my ability to listen and remain calm while formulating a measured response. This reaction is a product of years of training as a therapist. It’s also part of my beliefs about the importance of listening and finding common ground.
What did I do? I raised my arm as if to implore him to cease, I shook my head and I said: “I just I cannot talk with you when you make such statements! When you forget how Democrats were treated when the Republicans had control.” He smiled snidely and stated: “What goes around comes around!” I turned and walked away as he repeated that statement at least two more times. Spitting it out like it was a statement of revenge. His words followed me down the hallway.
As I said, this was uncharacteristic for me. I typically try to find common ground, try to be reasonable and listen to his positions. However, this is a man with a PhD who listens to Fox News and Limbaugh, O’Reilly and Beck. Perhaps it’s not possible to find common ground, as President Obama apparently discovered today. It takes two individuals, or two parties to make compromise work. If one side refuses to play, or keeps raising the target bar, or uses only their facts, the process of compromise is doomed to failure.
I know there are well-meaning conservatives who care about the impact, the human cost, of their programs and policies. But there are others who hold to their ideals at all costs, who believe the ends justify the means (costs). It seems that for some of these individuals, the failure of the President’s policies is worth the continued suffering of segments of our society. In my blog I often address the dangers of dichotomous thinking, (us vs. them). It’s easy to talk about this topic in a calm and rational manner when it concerns an article in the paper, or a statement made by some minister or national leader.
It’s more personal and hits home when it’s someone only a few doors down the hall, when it’s someone who bears a PhD behind their name and yet seems to exist in a world apart from you. I can turn off the TV, close the newspaper, but I can’t close my door and hide in my office!
I ride the bike and let the frustration slip away. I’ve written a blog filled with more frustration and sadness that I than I intended. But I suspect I’m not alone in my experience of frustration on the same day that President Obama sat down with the Republicans and made no progress in finding common ground. This struggle between dichotomous thinking and inclusionary thoughts takes place at all kinds of levels, within individuals, within the department’s and businesses, within the leadership of our nation. Let’s pray for all of them, let’s pray that our leaders can find a way through this challenge.