Managing recent transitions in my life has given me a natural break from politics. Well, I haven’t avoided politics completely. There have been some pretty significant events lately which are impossible to ignore. But it’s been quite nice keeping my thoughts and feelings to myself.
So I think I’ve been bracing myself as I reenter this cruel, cruel world of politics.
It makes me wonder. How have we managed our political ups and downs before? We have presidential elections every four years with winners and losers. We have survived periods of civil unrest and transitions as laws and ideologies change.
Sitting in a position of more global awareness, I realize governments around the world are constantly going through pretty dramatic transitions too. Some countries struggle. Others transition with a relatively smooth path established by laws or traditions or both.
Take, for example, the recent passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Britain had the same monarch for more than 70 years. 70 years!!! If it had been my country, we would have either called for term limits or done away with the monarchy. Well, and yes, that’s essentially what we did when we rejected King Charles II and formed our own independent government. And we eventually set term limits for our president.
So, yeah, there’s that.
But is there something to be said for time-honored traditions to help us transition though government changes? Are there traditions or values that universally unite our citizens and help us through it? More recent events have cast a shadow on the idea that we do.
Unless, I’m looking at this wrong.
My recent transitions have made it really difficult to get proper perspective, being knee deep in my problems. The daily panic of what to serve for dinner makes me overlook the calming fact that I have food to eat. A complaint from a 3-year-old makes me feel like a complete failure, somehow erasing a lot of other meaningful accomplishments.
Maybe that’s the same with my outlook on my country’s politics.
What keeps our country together whenever we have to make transitions in government?
Maybe this is a frivolous exercise, but somehow I feel like it’s important for me to focus again on what we have going for us.
Rule of law. We have historically prided ourselves on upholding the rule of law and honoring it regardless of an election outcome or issues in government. That doesn’t mean we don’t use those legal channels to hold people accountable. And we certainly use the rule of law to help change laws we feel are not serving us well. Granted, our history might not have a perfect track record, but there more than ample examples of where this value has made a significant difference.
Healthy Dialogue. With what we see in the news and on our social media feeds, we might wonder whether this exists anymore. Aggressive commentary, personal attacks, and unfriending, might make us wonder if we really do value healthy dialogue anymore. I bet, though, if we were to engage for just one moment with anyone, taking a sincere approach to healthy dialogue, the majority of the time we would find fellow citizens who are reasonable and willing to work through our differences. On a larger scale we now see a number of organizations setting the example of courtesy and respectful disagreement as we continue to figure out some of the complex issues we face. And even with the ugliness we see, let us remember the value of that freedom to disagree and challenge each other and our leaders. Not everyone in the world enjoys that same privilege.
Protected Rights. Among the issues we’re hashing out, we might find a few of our fundamental rights, but that doesn’t mean we can’t number this among our core values that keep us united. We believe that there are certain rights that deserve protection and our founding laws were written to protect them. In fact these very rights of speech and assembly are what provide the foundation for meaningful discussion as we continue to fine-tune and uphold our laws.
Citizen Engagement. Are we a Republic or a Democracy or a Democratic Republic? At the end of the day, our greatest value is not necessarily the structure of our government but the involvement of its citizens. I’m not knowledgeable or even aware of every issue. I may even be guilty of sometimes putting my involvement on autopilot. But I know at my core, I remain invested in important issues. When the need arises, I willingly link arms with other average citizens interested in making a difference.
And there are probably more I could mention.
Well, we don’t have a Head of State giving us a sense of unity as we continue to bump along our transitions of government. And it is easy at times to feel down as we find ourselves knee deep in our problems. But, for all of our problems and the challenges we have to grapple with, we have some pretty cool things going for us too.