Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Political Passion Can Cloud Your Noggin

I admire people who have passion. The world is changed by those who believe deeply and take action to follow their convictions. It is fun to watch those who embrace a cause and work to cultivate their ideas into a new reality.

However, unchecked passion can also make you look small minded or idiotic.

If you are wildly passionate an occasional reality check will make sure that your passion is not clouding your judgement. It happens all the time, especially when political issues are involved. People get so dedicated to what they want, that they actually can cause harm to others.

If you feel very strongly about an issue (that has more than one point of view behind it), take a minute to consider the points of view of those with opposing views. Are these people really "evil", "uneducated", or "self-serving"? Have you thought that your passionate point of view is as much of the problem as the person on the other side of the issue?

It is the rare and exceptional person who can emote themselves in the other person's shoes and look for the positive in the others argument. Instead, most people dismiss the other side as "wrong" and actively look to discredit them at every turn.

I respect passion. I think that it is that spark that makes things happen and advances so many causes that make the world a better place. However, when it comes to politics, passion is sometimes the root at the core of gridlock. Everyone loses when hot-headed idealists lock horns.

Lets look at the upcoming United States presidential election. We have gotten stuck in a "red state / blue state", "I hate Bush / I hate the Clintons", "You are wrong / I am right" mentality that leaves everyone with a sour taste in their mouth about the whole process .... and no progress or change can ever occur.

We are beginning to witness the attacks from both fringes against Barak Obama and John McCain. Just four years ago the Democrats were floating the idea of McCain as a possible running mate for John Kerry, now he has become the devil. Similarly the Republicans are trying to discredit Mr. Obama at every turn, taking his ideas for change and labeling them as naive inexperience.

I often think that if George W. Bush cured cancer the other side would say "What about diabetes?" Or if Bill Clinton was to solve world hunger, somebody would complain that there was no dessert.

I recently had a politically charged conversation with a person who had strong political beliefs. She was 100% convinced that she was right and the other half of the country was wrong, misguided and self-serving in their beliefs. When I pointed out the the US electorate was pretty evenly divided, she exposed her disdain for all who did not agree with her viewpoint. She believed that there was a vast conspiracy on the other side of the fence, avoiding any wrong doing by those who share her politics.

Both sides of the political spectrum have guilt of indiscretions over the years, but when I pointed this out, she looked like a deer in the headlights. Her passion had left her blind. Her blood pressure was through the roof as she thought about the upcoming political election. If her side lost, she was sure that it was the end of the world.

Look around, you are surrounded by people with political passion. The election year can be fun, and we can all learn from the process, but do not let your desire for a candidate or cause leave you cloudy. Never be disrespectful to your friends and co-workers who do not share you beliefs.
Instead, have conversations where you try to understand their motivation. You will not change their mind, so why debate and hurt feelings. I have seen friends and family split over curse passionate exchanges that had no basis for the sharp verbal lashing.

Examine all you read in the paper and online or view on television. Decide if it is divisive or enlightening. I try to avoid all that is divisive, even if the person shares my views.... as nobody wins when politics gets ugly (although all we have these days is ugly politics).

Why do I write about this on my blog....because I think if one is not careful, their political passions can spill over into personal and business lives. Reputations can be tarnished if you act like a political prima donna. Remember that you still need to be respectful of people who many not share your desires for a candidate or issue if you want to earn their respect.

This does not mean that we will all agree. In fact, it is our ability to respectfully disagree that makes life worth living. But everyone must remember the "respectful" part or we all get weighed down and there is no fun for anyone.

Have A Great Day.


1 comment:

Shane Merritt said...


That was a well-written piece. Being a Christian and having served in the military, I tend to lean toward the Republican perspective on many issues and have a hard time finding any congruency between my beliefs and the Democratic Platform. They are in fact in many ways diametrically opposed. I own an investment firm in the heart of liberal America (Massachusetts)and I recognize just by identifying myself with a certain religion or political party, judgements are made rather quickly and that I am in danger of doing the same. For this reason, we try not to discuss sex, religion or politics with clients. It's extremely difficult to talk about two (well maybe three) of these things in a dispassionate way, particularly when one of the major pressure factors on the market right now is the upcoming election. Your article was most helpful. Thank You, Shane