Ontario is getting ready to launch into election season.
We have a new leader of the PC party.
We have op-ed pieces showing up in the newspapers.
The political posts about Ontario have increased on my social media feed.
Everyone is out to have a say about what should happen next in our province – and that’s a good thing. The point of democracy is that we should all have a voice in what happens to all of us.
This post isn’t about what party anyone may or may not vote for, however. The truth of the matter is that politics tends to swing back and forth along a pendulum with the overarching reality allowing us to stumble vaguely through life as a (semi-) functional society. And although I think that certain policies may have taken us forward and you think those same policies may have taken us back, that’s not really the main thing I’m concerned about right at the moment.
I’m okay with political disagreement.
But what concerns me is the move towards a politics of fear from both sides of the political perspective.
As you may have guessed, I think we can choose to vote out of fear or vote out of love.
We can choose to vote out of fear of another or fear for ourselves; fear that there won’t be enough or fear that others will have more than we do; fear of losing out on what we’ve had in the past or fear of not getting what we need in the future.
Or we can choose to vote out of love for our neighbours and communities and society and ourselves – for hope and for a future.
And I think this can happen be true for all of us, regardless of what party we end up voting for.
So I’m going to encourage you to do a few things as election season gears up.
Step away from “social media politics”. It tends to be fear-based and reactionary – it tends to vilify the ‘other’ and often contains a lot of dehumanizing language, none of which is helpful to creating space for healthy dialogue or conversation or deep, thoughtful decision-making.
Root yourself deeply in your own values, so that you know what you believe and why. Lots of people are going to tell you what to think. They may even tell you why you should think what you should think. But unless you have identified your core values and can root yourself deeply in these values, you will find it can be difficult to actually know what you think in the face of all of the accusations and rhetoric and fear-mongering going on around us, and easy for people to hijack your vote for their own purposes (which you may or may not actually agree with).
For any issue you feel passionate about, see if you can find someone who has been affected differently from you (or who has a different perspective than you) on the subject. If we are concerned about the costs of funding increased grant for university and college students, for example, we can see if we can find a university or college student that is benefitting from those funds and find out what kind of a difference it’s making to their life. Or if we are frustrated with the resentment people have had towards the new minimum wage legislation, we can see if we can find a small business owner who can tell us about how this legislation has affected them and their options as an owner and employer. The point isn’t to change our mind, but the point is to rehumanize the conversation, and to help ourselves see the issues more broadly so that we can make more thoughtful and compassionate decisions.
Ask real people about their hopes and fears for the future. Begin to listen to those around you as they talk about what matters to them on a societal level. Whenever possible, listen without reacting or trying to change the other person’s mind. Hear their concerns as valid and assume they have good reasons for thinking and feeling the way that they do. When we feel heard it helps to lower our fear response and makes it easier to offer love to the next person. And, it’s just possible that having been listened to themselves, they may find it easier to listen to someone else.
Do your research, and be willing to think critically about the issues at hand. Compassionate research requires us to look at all sides of an issue. It requires us to search out opposing viewpoints, to learn about the reasons behind policies and the projected outcomes of those policies for all members of society. It requires us to fact-check soundbites and ask questions about how statistics are being presented. This analytical approach can help us to calm our amygdala (fear-response) down so that we can think more clearly about the issues at hand.
Watch and talk with your local candidates to get a read on not only their policies but their motivations and approaches. Are they interested in collaboration, in listening, in consensus-based change designed for the greatest good? Or do they take a ‘my way or the high way’ approach or regularly stoop to divisive, bullying or dehumanizing language about their opponents or about others they disagree with?
Finally, get out and vote. Fear can cause us to fight, but it can also cause us to flee and to freeze. Part of leaning in to love is showing up when it matters, and voting day is one of those days. If we want something better than divisive, fear-based politics, those of us who care about love will need to show up and vote for love – whatever party or platform or candidate that means for you.