Understanding the Lesson that No One Wants to Learn

The 2010 midterm election will eventually become like many others in our nation’s history, relegated to a data point in the ebb and flow of political cycles—that is, unless our country has hit a point where it is no longer willing to tolerate radical extremism in disguise as leadership and mudslinging as a substitute for real-world solutions. What has become the greatest travesty of the early 21st Century is our collective failure to understand that the solutions to our problems do not come from either end of the spectrum, rather they come from a conscious desire to integrate the best that both sides have to offer. Unfortunately, working together to create balanced solutions fails to excite our fear, raise the rating for cable news networks and, regrettably, elevate our sense of what is possible.

While the ideals the fueled America’s rise to prominence in the world bore themselves out in the those with strength, vision and tenacity to bring innovation, industrialization and economic prosperity, our less sensationalized partner in prosperity were the human equalities embedded in the founding documents of our nation. These core principles of American identity, unfettered reward for the successful and consideration and rights for every individual allowed both to progress to levels never before experienced in our world. Now the systems that built these great opportunities are beginning to crumble because we seem incapable of maintaining a healthy balance between these ideals as fear rises and the bonds of our connection disintegrate.

I don’t believe most Americans go to polls wanting more strife, more dissent and more vitriol coming from our public bodies—and yet, that is likely what they are going to get after this election. The reason they will get it is that the more we focus on fear, the more that we generate an atmosphere where fear rules the day and reason seems a quaint out-of-date notion. Certainly John Stewart’s “Rally for Sanity” extolled similar ideas and how ironic that a comedian has become the harbinger of sanity and reason in our political process.

So what is the lesson that we don’t want to learn? Quite simply, no one is going to “fix it for us.” There is not one person, one elected official, anyone who is going to solve a problem for us that we are unwilling to solve for ourselves.

There it is—if you want things to be different in this country or anywhere for that matter YOU are going to have to do something differently starting NOW. You can’t insist health care costs go down and not do what it takes to be healthy. You can’t resent paying taxes and then wonder why the government isn’t cleaning up fast enough after a natural disaster. And you can’t complain about the quality of the workforce and not support quality public education. In sum, a shift in all these things will require a shift in each of us.

This is why President Obama has let so many people down. Just two years ago, he eloquently painted a picture for us of what it can be like, of the possibility, the potential and the payoff of doing things a different way. What he failed to do was actually walk people through the tough process of doing it differently. If he wants bipartisan cooperation, then sit down with the Republicans before you start creating a health care bill. Be real, be willing to do things differently and don’t stop until you get real reform. We may not like the idea of having to change ourselves but the American public certainly recognizes when it being sold a bill of goods that change has occurred when it really hasn’t . . .

How many more volatile elections will it take to learn our lesson? How many more institutions must go through crisis? How many thousands will have to suffer while others stand by clinging to the remnants of beliefs that tell us we can return to our gluttonous ways without consequence?
The leaders from this era who will be remember are those that are willing to break free from the aged paradigms of what we have been taught the world is supposed to look like and begin to blaze a sustainable trail to the future. These leaders recognize that success comes from connecting to others in real ways, offer our talents for the betterment of all and to finding the joy we seek by banding together to solve problems—and actually doing it.

Creating community is the most powerful force we can offer the process of change. Leaders in the 21st century will be those who create community everywhere they go and allow the best that each person has to offer to come forth. Not to create great empires, industries, or mega-fortunes, rather to create the one thing that continues to elude most—real, sustainable happiness and success. For the secret to life really lies in the small things and in learning the difficult lesson.

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Michele Costanza

I find it interesting that so many commentators choose to view the voting results as an emotional and fearful reaction of the American people, implying that the voters aren’t smart enough to use facts, reason, and logic to make their own decisions.

Community building is driven by the needs of the community members. The most successful efforts are started at the grassroots level. It’s not something that can be forced upon them, as in “If they build it, they will use it.”

Kathleen Schafer

Michele–I completely agree that there is nothing that “can be forced upon them.” My intention is not to infer that voters aren’t capable of making their own choice–my goal is to affirm their ability to choose and then to actually DO something about it. My strong belief is that people do have the ability to know what is best for them and what happens all too often is that we get lulled into thinking that someone will do it FOR us. We not only need to identify what we want, we need to create it and not simply think that our elected officials can make changes in the country that “we the people” aren’t prepared to walk everyday . . .