"It's wonderful to have a psychologist such as Dr. Crawford on contract through Harris County's Risk Management program. I've attended several of his seminars and hold him in the highest regard. In addition, his weekly "Quotes and Comments" are consistently excellent, and, in my opinion, the BEST! Powerful, enlightening, and even liberating. Many thanks to Dr. Bill!"
Quotes and Wisdom
And sadly, this demonization isn't reserved just for politics. It seems that anyone who opposes us or is in opposition to what we think, is automatically painted in the most negative light possible, as if every fiber of their being was arrogant, obnoxious, and repulsive.
Unfortunately, there are several problems with this approach.
First, it has us holding negative images of others that trigger our own anger, disgust, and distaste. Because any image we hold in our mind triggers a chemical reaction in our body, this means that spending our time thinking negatively about another is actually triggering stress-related chemicals (mostly cortisol) that minimize the power of our immune system to fight illness and take years off of our lives!
The question I ask those who come to me for help in dealing with a difficult person is, "On a scale of 1 to 10, How important do you want that person to be in your life?" They almost always answer "0!" and I point out that spending time hating, resenting, or being angry at someone has us thinking mostly of them and giving them the power to control the chemical make-up of our body, basically making them the most important person in our life!
As much as this doesn't work with people, in general, this tendency to demonize the opposition is especially destructive when it comes to politics. Why? Because the only time demonization is useful is when it is used in the armed forces to allow soldiers to kill the enemy. In other words, given that most soldiers aren't "killers" by nature, something must be done to change this. When soldiers go to war, at some point, the choice will be kill or be killed, and thinking of your enemy as a demon makes this choice easier.
Whether you agree or disagree about demonization serving the purpose of war, it clearly does not serve the purpose of a political election! The purpose of an election is to choose a leader. Supposedly in our form of government, once this is done, the electorate then rallies behind the winner and supports them in getting things done. Demonization of the candidates only leads to resentment in the voters who "lost" and gridlock in the government.
What's the alternative? How about seeing each of the candidates, not as liars, cheats, and demons but as decent people who have different ideas about what is best for the country. In this particular election, the leaders of both parties have demonstrated this ability (at least at times).
For example, in describing President Obama, Mitt Romney said, "He's a good example of a husband and a father. Some of his education initiatives - merit pay for the best teachers and school choice have been positive."
By the same token in speaking of Governor Romney, President Obama said, "He should be proud of the great personal success he's had as a CEO of a large financial firm. There are plenty of good and honest people in that industry, and there's an important, creative role for it in the free market."
Now, I'm sure some of my friends on both the far right and left will disagree with this "decent, but different" concept and defend the extreme nature of their characterizations, and that's fine. This essay isn't designed to accuse anyone of being "wrong" (in other words, I promise not to demonize the demonizers:-)
I am only speaking to those who want to become more influential in their lives and the lives of others by living in a way that is congruent with their highest purpose, and who want to teach these positive qualities to their children and those they love? Those who want to choose tolerance, respect, and a willingness to listen to the opposition as a way for us to choose our leaders, because this says something about who we are as individuals and who we are as a country. Plus, this perspective will allow us to come together after the election is over.
In other words, instead of producing a mind full of demons by thinking up more vile things to say about those with whom we disagree, maybe we should be mindful of the statement that hate, disgust, venom, and demonizing makes about us? how it fills us with negative emotions and triggers stress-based chemicals that diminish our experience of life. Is this really an example of our highest purpose? Is this really how we want to define ourselves, how we want to live, or how we want to choose a leader? Would we really recommend, or teach this as a way of life to a child or someone we loved?
As we ponder the question of who to vote for this year, maybe keeping these questions in mind could serve us as well, and allow us to make less reactive, more mindful choices.