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By Jason Samatas

I’m a bit of a political junkie.  I recall it was back in college when I first started enjoying politics.  I enjoyed understanding how our government worked (or tried to work), as well as the strategy the parties employed to accomplish their agendas. I have voted in every presidential election since 1996 and even though I lived in a state (Illinois) wherein the outcome was already mostly determined (highly Democratic state due to metro Chicago), I took my civic pride seriously and have always thought it was important to have my voice heard.

Things have certainly changed since Clinton v Dole in 1996. I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read over the past number of years explaining the reasons why our political system is so broken. It’s true. Our country is extremely polarized and can’t seem to agree on much these days. The current Congress is on pace to have the least successful legislative session in many years. But I’m not writing here to expound on my opinions on why things are so broken.

I’m consider myself an optimist, but I have very little hope that our congressional leaders will find compromise on anything in the best interests of the American People.  Much of politics today is performative art, to see who can say the most outrageous thing, who can get the most appearances on cable news, get the most likes or “re-tweets” on someone’s negative commentary, and raise the most money off said behavior.  I’ve seen it time and time again. Even as an optimist, I’ve lost hope at the pathetic nature of these cycles. And it angers me that it seems that many of us Americans continue to fall for it, evidenced by record donations to candidates, an incredibly high incumbency re-election rate, and sky-high cable news ratings.

However, as I wondered how our country would or could get out of this seemingly perpetual cycle of negativity, an analogy came to me. When I was married, I attended marital counseling with my partner. At the time, my then-partner and I had issues with our vastly different communication styles.  During one particularly memorable session, our marital counselor told me that I needed to “visit her world”.  Huh? I needed to take a few moments to leave my world, cross the metaphorical bridge over to her world, and explore to get a much better understanding of her perspective.  It was my opportunity to see her and her world from a judgement-free perspective and in a non-reactive mode, wherein I would learn more about her and what makes her tick. It was a tremendously enlightening exercise and a connection tool that I still use to this day.

So as you can imagine, I’ve been dreading the 2024 election cycle; the negativity, the name-calling, the lies, the spin. Is there any way I can turn this dread around? How can I change my perspective a bit? In answer to these questions, I am embarking on an exercise that will be difficult for me due to the fact that I have very strong opinions on the state of our politics. In this cycle, and maybe forever, I have decided that I’m going to work much harder at visiting the worlds of people who are not on my “political side”. Admittedly, I have been very dismissive of people on the other side. I haven’t respected their opinions, their thought processes, and their perspectives. This is wrong. Here is my opportunity to shift into curiosity mode. This is my time to visit the worlds of others, free of judgement, to better understand how other people think, particularly in a political context. Like I said, it won’t be easy but it will be work that, just like my marriage counseling, could be very rewarding. It certainly won’t solve our political problems, but just like my vote in each election cycle, it will be my small way of contributing to an overall change that I think needs to occur within myself.

It’s time to take off and venture out into another world.


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