If the electorate is given a two polarizing choices, then no matter who gets elected, the government will act in a bipolar manner. A national election, when a country votes for its leadership, should not be embraced like a sports championship. Here two teams battle, injuries are inflicted, and losers are left speechless. Politics should not be viewed as a sports match. Real life is not a Friday night football game. Real life needs individuals to work together. All problems, whether simple and world ending, require cooperation and collaboration. Personal dogmas do not solve problems. But when one political party’s success is achieved at the expense and exclusion of the other party, when political ideology trumps empathy, then how will problems be solved?
The two-party political system is a dualistic delusion. Every voting person knows that in Washington there is no longer cooperation and collaboration. The idea of two parties working together for what is best for the people of the nation has been lost to the mentality of a varsity football game. When the nation is divided and the public is left disenchanted, disconnected, delusion with our leaders.
Stephen Covey (1989) once wrote “Win-win is a belief in the Third Alternative. It's not your way or my way; it's a better way, a higher way” (Covey, 1989, p. 103). These words sting the eyes as one reads them. If only a better way was sought, if only candidates worked for the ‘higher way.’ In the end, as the dust and blood settles from this year’s Presidential election, I can’t help but fear that some voices of the American public will no longer be accepted into the conversations.
HABIT FOUR: Win / Win
When I was in my high school’s student newspaper, there was a fellow student who prided himself on being a dick. It was the mid-1980s in Orange County and frat-boy mentality was running amuck. This Reagan Youth would often remind me that “Nice guys finish last.” Finally, one day when he said, “Nice guys finish last” and I replied that “it depends on which race you are running in.” Here was a young man stuck in the debilitating Win / Lose paradigm. I can only assume that this fellow student went on to sell used cars, or worked for Enron, and probably had some major relationship issues. But, for so many people, the world is dualistic. “Most people tend to think regarding dichotomies: strong or weak, hardball or softball, win or lose. But that kind of thinking if fundamentally flawed. It's based on power and position rather than on principle” (Covey, 1989, p. 103). This dualism is based on the fear of being in the losing position.
For myself, it becomes a matter of what Covey (1989) calls Character. It is who we are when dealing with others that make the difference. There are many parts to what makes-up a person's character and Covey lists several, like Integrity, Maturity, and Abundance Mentality. Integrity is the value one places on themselves. Maturity is a balance between thinking of others and your feelings, simple respect. Finally, Abundance Mentality is the simple idea that there is plenty for everyone (Covey, 1989, p. 109). I can’t help but think Covey and H.H. the Dalai Lama would have enjoyed each other’s company.
TEACHING THE HABIT
My student population is all Hispanic, and the school has an 80% Free and Reduced Lunches. Although I have not directly talked to my students about the recent elections, I will assume like the rest of the world; it is a time of great uncertainty. This week’s lesson will focus on the Win / Win in life. Remember “Win-win sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena” (Covey, 1989, p. 103). This week the class will work on ways to be kind, considerate, and collaborative. Through this process, I hope to bring a little certainty to their lives by giving them just a little more control in the sphere of influence. We will focus on questions like, How can we listen better? What is a promise? What’s the point of a random act of kindness? I hope to provide students with Covey’s mantra that “Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions” (Covey, 1989, p. 103). It is no longer about “us” and “them,” it is now about “we.”
Covey, S. R. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. New York: Simon and Schuster