My Facebook status today read, “I adopted a practice many years ago I still adhere to. When making decisions or taking a stand, particularly in matters of complexity,
I assume I'm wrong. This has allowed for a (mostly) open mind and growth. It's freeing. - Me (p.s. I still allow for honoring deeply held convictions)”
I felt compelled to make this declaration in response to intermittent critics who claim I’m stirring the pot or digging up trouble on my Facebook page. You see, I post questions to issues of the day or controversial subjects, and hope it will spur dialogue. But, contrary to the opinions of some, it’s not to stir up trouble. It’s to enter into dialogue and learn. The art of conversation is a quickly disappearing art which I find tragic. That said, social media venues are providing new outlets for it, and the dissemination of information we all desperately need to make wise choices. This is comforting and exciting.
The recent political climate has taken a disheartening turn that leaves me wondering what ever happened to reasonable and civil debate. Growing up in an Italian Irish New York City immigrant neighborhood, I am intimate with the memories of heated debates across the dinner table or at the neighborhood bar. These discussions were vibrantly alive with disagreement and banter that volleyed endlessly. Some of the conversations are not unlike the discussions we have on Facebook, with one key difference - Trust.
Trust is such a wobbly, while simultaneously, an unfailingly stable principle, established as quickly as it’s lost. Trust is one of those things we take a chance on, along with the person we’re projecting it onto. Yet, one err, and we withdraw our deposit. More often than not, when we withdraw our trust of someone, we hold that person in contempt as if their sin was deeply personal and directed at us. But, behold, it probably had nothing whatsoever to do with us.
Our political climate in the United States has become a war of ideologies, one perfect idea fighting another. But is it really possible for any one ideology to hold the key to an idyllic America? Of course not. Not unlike nature, politics are steeped in deep complexities of human desires and thought that nobody can possibly fully understand.
I have a deeply held belief that no matter what ideology we hold on tight to, we’re not that different or far apart in beliefs. We only tell the story in a different voice, from a different part of the room. I want to prove that to you.
I also believe we’ve become so quick to blame, so quick to divert the attention away ourselves, so quick to anger and intolerance of one another, we can’t see anymore. Our blinders have become so narrowly focused that we have very limited sight. The most tragic part is we don’t even know it.
I was a liberal leaning moderate when I moved to Idaho. Truth is, out west I would be considered a liberal. That is how I identified myself and with whom I felt most aligned to. Was it because I understood the complexities of politics and the historical lessons we’d learned as a nation through right and left wing political experiences? Hell no. I simply ‘felt’ it was right. It was right that workers had rights, that people who had lost everything receive a second chance, that old people would not die from starvation and lack of heat, that drug addicts should be treated, etc. My dream leaving college was to go to Africa in the Peace Corps, not make millions at Morgan Stanley. I was a humanist at heart. I still am.
These inherent, underlying beliefs caused me to drift to the liberal side in a debate because it was, quite simply, the right thing to do. Left actually, but you get my meaning. I’m also as close to ‘off the boat’ from Norway as they come, so there are many who probably label me a socialist. They’re wrong.
I leaned left because it felt better. It was intuitively correct for me. If I allowed myself to even imagine turning someone away or not give them a chance, my gut would scream to the high heavens - and we couldn’t have that. No, helping others was, unquestionably, the right thing to do. Later in life when I owned and managed alcohol and drug treatment centers, I would learn what ‘helping’ someone really meant. This is one of the key components of political complexity and decision making for me. Help is not a hand out, it’s a hand up. I know..you’ve heard that jargon before...but bear with me.
Let’s get back to trust. Trust is established through a number of paths. One, it can be instantly established through an immediate recognition of likemindedness. Second, it can grow over time through experiences and dialogue with someone. We can trust someone to be honest, or snarky, or willing, or reliable through our direct experiences with them. Third, trust is a conscious choice based on nothing but a heartfelt desire to trust them, as in romance or friendship. They are trusted until deemed untrustworthy. It’s an instantaneous, and often unconscious, decision. So, other than having someone we trust betray us, what other ways do we establish lack of trust? What is it that causes us to not trust someone from the get-go? My experience is it’s much of the same in reverse. It’s an immediate recognition of lack of likemindedness, or it’s established over time due to how we experience someone’s behavior, or we just don’t want to trust them. There is one more way we decide to trust someone or not - someone else tells us it’s so, and we believe them. I think that’s one of the core problems with our country right now.
We’ve lost the ability to think for ourselves, and our bureaucracies have become so overburdened with regulations, conflicting rules and overseers, that we can’t see the forest from the trees. As a result, we adopt ideologies. These ideologies are generally adopted as a result of the message we hear, and our personal opinions about the messenger. Sometimes the messenger is as simple as our culture, and a collectively held cultural belief system. The ranching culture in the American West is a good example.
I moved to Idaho in 1989, wearing my liberal coat. However, I wasn’t particularly political in nature. I was much more concerned with the state of humanity as a whole, than how policy was created. I just wanted to do good and make a difference in the world. In 1993 I stumbled across a book called Holistic Management by a wildlife biologist and former member of South African parliament named, Allan Savory. It changed my life...and transformed how I think.
In 1993, I’d made a difficult decision to close my business in Sun Valley when insurance companies became reluctant to cover inpatient treatment for alcohol and drug treatment and that particular demographic were rarely able to self-pay. My helping nature made it almost impossible for me to turn anyone away due to lack of funds, and eventually, as I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, there came a point when the rubber had to meet the road. I closed the center in 1992, and headed to California where my husband was waiting to salvage our marriage. At the same time, I’d developed friendships with many people who were trust funders and environmental activists. Often, these two labels went hand in hand in Sun Valley, and those with financial means enjoyed contributing generously to these environmental causes. One of the most visible and loudest activist groups was the Idaho Watershed Project, founded and led by a local architect, Jon Marvel. This group was committed to removing all grazing off public lands in the American West, and they were starting with Idaho. I had no personal attachment one way or the other to the issue of grazing, but I did have an intuitive sense about these keepers of open space. It seemed to me the ranchers, cowboys and people on the land I’d met, which were few, were salt of the earth people. They worked hard, lived simply and humbly; in deep contrast to the unemployed trust funders who had inherited their wealth and lived in huge homes with large environmental footprints, many right on the banks of the river. I loved my wealthy friends, and truth was, I knew no ranchers personally. Something was inherently wrong, and my inner voice wouldn’t stop yapping at me about it. I was about to find out why.
When I first moved to Idaho I wasn’t fully aware of the Mormon influence in the state. I had been recruited to a job in a resort ski town, considered by the rest of the state to be a den of iniquity and outsiders. I wasn’t aware of this cultural conflict until much later when I was introduced to it first hand from the people who worked and lived the land.
Although I never thought much about politics, I did always hold to the belief that Republicans were greedy and selfish and wealthy and out of touch from real people. They were the Wall Street stock brokers who’d made it big, the guys down the road from me in Greenwich Ct who lived behind the gate and the tall stone walls. They were what you become when you get rich, wear plaid, and want to impress the neighbors with all you’ve acquired. Since this was never a goal of mine, I remained in the dark about any other values or beliefs they may have held.
Democrats were the workers, the real people. They believed in unions, which were in my naive experience, the people who did the real work, the hard work. They believed in peace, not war. They made sure people were cared for and justice was ensured for every one of us, no matter how much money we had in the bank. I was raised to believe that each human being, no matter how big or small, was equal. I’m not sure where I got this from because I learned later in life that my father didn’t want me to hang out with black kids. This news rocked me to my core because it was so incongruent to who I experienced him as. He was a Norwegian diplomat and had the opportunity to raise us in a Manhattan skyscraper, paid by the Norwegian government. He declined their offer and chose, instead, to raise us in a working class immigrant neighborhood in Brooklyn inhabited, at the time, by primarily Norwegian immigrants right off the boat. An old Italian man in the neighborhood, who sat in front of his store on 5th avenue each day, would greet me as I walked by and say, ‘There goes the Norsky. I can still smell the bananas.” After a year or so, it took some courage to risk appearing stupid and ask him what he meant by that. He said it was clear I was ‘right off the boat.’ To this day, it makes me laugh. He was one of my early teachers in showing me there are no stupid questions.
When I moved out west, I came to learn most were Republican outside of the ski resort town and the few cities in the state. Those that lived in rural places were Republicans. The same people who lived simply and humbly on the land. The same people who had yard cars and were, seemingly, dirt poor. There was an in discrepancy here that made no sense at all. If Republicans were the wealthy and those whom cared little for the simple man, who were these Republicans who I saw as salt of the earth?
They were Mormons. And those influenced by them.
You’re probably thinking their religion is the problem. Well, yes and no. It is their religion but it’s not a problem. Their religion does explain a lot about how Republicans can live with themselves out west and still be salt of the earth in my book.
There are a few basic premises I’ve learned from Republicans the last 20 years.
Real change rises up. It’s not imposed from above.
Too much government control and interference results in oppression and overburdened bureaucracy.
Communities, people (including families) should take care of each other. It’s not the government’s job, it’s our job.
Our natural environment is not something to look at, it’s something we’re interdependent with. We are a part of each other, working together. It’s not something to protect like a shrine. It’s a living part of us, like our children, and we all grow together, sustaining each other.
I think there are some basic assumptions underlying these two ideologies that get lost or are hidden.
Republicans out west in rural places assume the basic posture of being neighbors, family, caring for one another, barnraisings. Republicans in urban places are much more inclined to be self sustaining, proud, have what they need and don’t want anyone else to take it from them. RR’s give and receive to one another.
The Mormon influence maintains that government shouldn’t have to care for citizens. This need is not felt because the church body does that for its members. There is a built in security from within the church. However, those that don’t believe in Mormon theology, are not protected from hard times, illness, victimization by an organized system. Workers have unions, Mormons have the church, rural citizens often have one another, the wealthy have money, but what happens to those that have none of these things? The elderly have social security, the poor have welfare, the unemployed have benefits. But what about those who fall in between these lines?
Over time, I learned to listen and listening, along with an open heart, had some distinct advantages.
So, Linda's policy of assuming she is wrong is just another (and perhaps too modest) way of saying one should always examine one's own presuppositions and assumptions. This is what testing an assumption is all about. This is what the intellectual enterprise is all about: a rigorous defense and then examination of and perhaps then willingness to abandon one's assumptions.This is what Socrates required of his interlocutors. They came to him with unexamined assumptions and he forced them to examine them. The trick is to always recognize that one has assumptions. And then examine them. "The unexamined life is not worth living." This is the intellectual banquet! Luv, Dig
Sandy - I was going to send this to Troy, but am sending it to you instead. I started just writing a note but it ended up a book. lol. Love. I'm sending it to you so you'll have it.
I'm writing this to you here because I don't want to say it publicly. You'll understand.
What about a woman who is married and has no financial freedom, control or choices? There are no legal options for her to change her situation. Legal aid tells her she cannot get help to get divorced because she must claim physical abuse, but she has only experienced severe emotional abuse, constant belittling, and financial abuse. She cannot access any funds, not even for groceries. No haircuts, or personal items. She must beg or go through the third degree to get money for her medicine each and every time she needs it. Her medical bills for co-pay were thrown in a pile over 5 years and refused to pay. It was only when the Sheriff came to the door twice that they were paid reluctantly.Her credit ruined. Their joint income is almost $200k and each year he allows her to purchase one nice item that he must approve. i.e. computer, camera, etc. This makes him feel like a good husband. She cannot choose what to make for dinner on a given night and run to the store to get what she needs to please him, since she is not permitted to purchase groceries. He buys them, and only the items he likes. He does allow her coffee. She is not permitted to have money to buy a ticket to visit her 88 yr old mother. She is denied money to buy Christmas or birthday presents for her family, even when her son was in the middle east during war. She's told there is no money for these things. She does not receive birthday or Christmas gifts, or go out to dinner or movies, or have any friends with her husband. He works all the time, and expects her to be in the house waiting to give him sex on demand, and dinner each night. The only freedom she experiences is if she gets away from him. When she goes to town to look for work, he gives her gas in her tank but no money for food or networking. (He gave her $9 in Feb) Her friends bring her food and sometimes she borrows money. When she's desperate she has to beg him, but cannot bear to beg or be demeaned anymore so she often just goes without. When she begs, it rarely works anyway and she still has to listen to the insults and names like idiot, stupid, retard and fatgirl. She lives too far from a place to work, and is given rules about how far she is allowed to drive. She works sometimes and tries to stock up on those things she needs during those times.
She brought in money through a govt grant, $36K/yr over ten years, and some of it was to allow her to have an income. After 1.5 year, he transferred it to his account not allowing her any more of it so he could buy more things. The house she lives in is in severe disrepair. She had no oven for two years, is not allowed to have a microwave, has one working burner on the stove, her dishes were removed from the kitchen cabinets. A rule was established that there would only be two of each type of dish there. The rest were put in storage when she was gone a few years ago, or discarded. She is told not to have medical checkups. They are a waste of money and unnecessary.She had a dying tooth but a root canal was $1500, he wanted her to let it die on her own which she did...over two years and extreme, nauseating pain.
She had to go to the doctor this month for a new prescription but her bill from the last appt hadn't been paid. The doctor makes her pay now because the bills hadn't been paid for so long. She wrote a bad check out of desperation...she needed her medicine. She has now paid it.
Repeatedly he has told her to write a check for something and he will deposit the money into her acct. He never does, and her checking acct is overdrawn. Then he tells he she cannot add and she is stupid. Sometimes those 'crazy making' mind games are the worst thing of all. She doesn't do this anymore. She was stupid after the first time not to check the bank first. She's not stupid about this anymore.
Her husband tells her their financial situation, debts, etc are none of her business. When she's concerned about what might happen to her if something should happen to him since the home they live in is not hers, he answers, 'you will have my social security. what else do you need? You can live on that." Last month she desperately needed $200. She told him she'd give him an extra special good night of sex (which she never denies him) for the money. Tears streamed down her face the whole time which he couldn't see. He left the money on the table for her the next morning.
She is a pull yourself up by the bootstraps person. She is creative and smart, loves God and people, but she finds herself so beat down some days that she can't get up. Some mornings the insults and names or just plain meanness and negativity get to her so bad, it takes a few hours to get back to her normal self. THen she starts job hunting or networking again. And some days he is normal. She does have health insurance, and a vehicle to drive in his name. She was not allowed gasoline for a long time, but now she does receive that. When he doesn't want her to leave, he takes the keys and hides them. Last new years eve the police saw him push her to the ground and informed him he could not force her to do something. He hasn't hidden the keys since, but he has deprived her of many of her personal needs. Lately, she gets away as much as she can even though she feels guilty for leaving him there alone. She says she's looking for a job, which she is.
She feels committed to her husband and cares about him but knows this is no way to live. What does that woman do? What advice would you give her? Does she fight for her marriage or does she run? Should there be some kind of legal avenue for her?