Says Who??

Verstehen, through shared perspectives

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I live in a state where early voting is allowed, and easily accessible. People at the Polling station were friendly and relatively relaxed. No one was listening to, or reporting, early return results. There were no long lines, no waiting period at all. I was in and out in less than ten minutes, despite taking my time and mentally reviewing everything I could remember about the candidates. There were some names I did not recognize; fortunately they were either unopposed, or were running against people I did know about and intended to vote for.

Being an independent, I did not vote along party lines. I voted for the candidate that I truly believed would do the best job and in at least two cases, despite being very disappointed in them for letting me down by not doing what they had said they would do. Fortunately, it is not necessary for me to like a candidate in order to believe that they are at least a better choice, if not ideally suited in terms of my preferences.

When possible, I voted for candidates who did not indulge in mudslinging and blatant lies. I voted for candidates whose concerns have at least seemed to put the needs of their constituents and those of the country ahead of personal gain; at least, I did so when I could see some evidence that this might be true.

But we are a democracy, and we are also a polarized country. No matter who wins, almost half of the voters will feel defeated. If the past twenty or so years are any predictor for the future, this will result in more bitterness, more lies, and more attempts to discredit the winning candidate and his or her party regardless of what (or who) is destroyed in the process.

Two years down the road, when we have our next big election, will we have overcome this tendency? Or will self-service and greed have resulted in two more years of stalemate and wasted taxpayer funds on yet another do-nothing Congress?

Election day was once a day of renewed hope—a day when we could anticipate new ideas, new commitment to the nation, and the retirement of ideas that no longer work, along with their supporters.

Maybe I have just grown old and disillusioned. This time, I left the polling place being glad on the one hand that there was only one week to have to listen to the incessant whine of political ads telling me why I shouldn’t vote for an opponent, instead of why I should vote for the speaker. My phone calls may once again be from real people instead of computerized voices telling me who I should vote for.  On the other hand, I am not hoping for much from the new configuration of elected officials, so there was no reason to anticipate any long-term climate change in politics after the election.  Talk about mixed feelings!

But I voted. I voted responsibly and fairly. At least I can still do that.

As to the future, for once in my life I would be absolutely ecstatic to be proven wrong. Because if I am wrong, then there are good days ahead for the USA. I want so very much to be wrong.



The definition of enabler is one that enables another to achieve an end. This takes on a negative connotation when the “one” enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (such as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by helping that individual avoid the consequences of such behavior. Usually we think of parents, spouses, children and close friends as potential enablers of people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs.

Keep in mind, first of all, that alcohol and drug addictions are proven diseases of the brain. In the addict’s brain, a malfunctioning and distorted reward center makes ever-increasing demands on the person in the form of cravings that can override his or her ability to adhere to values of right vs. wrong.

In the advanced stages, the addicted person will lie, steal, manipulate loved ones and strangers, even kill or destroy the lives of others, in order to satisfy the unbearable craving for the object of the addiction or “agent.” At this stage the addictive agent only provides momentary relief from the awful craving. If addicts are able to hold a job, the job becomes meaningless except to the extent that it provides means to gain more of the craved agent. They are incapable of considering long-term consequences, because the immediate craving is too overwhelming. The brain – even the soul – of the addicted person becomes unable to empathize with even their closest loved ones, much less the rest of humanity.

Now that we recognize that drug and alcohol addictions are diseases, we also understand that it takes more than detoxification to restore the patient to a productive life. Long-term solutions, such as well-run 12-step programs and/or residential recovery programs, help tremendously to restore or establish a patient’s ability to make good choices for healthy living. These programs may also provide a long overdue refocusing of the destructive enabling and/or stigmatizing behaviors of families (and society) toward those who are addicted.

This got me thinking…

A chemical substance is not the only “agent” leading to addiction. The reward center of our brains may also malfunction to cause psychological addictions.
Let’s take a look at some behavioral symptoms of addiction:
(a) keeping a job only so long as it provides the means to obtain the craved addictive pleasure;
(b) lies;
(c) stealing;
(d) manipulation;
(e) destruction of other’s lives;
(f) lack of empathy;
(g) inability to consider long-term consequences –
– all in service to the craving for more of the addictive agent. That agent could be money, material possessions, power, popularity…..

Which got me thinking even more…

One group that comes to my mind are politicians – not all, of course. But think about it… Are some politicians addicted to the political scene? This could explain much of the otherwise inexplicable behavior of our “do-nothing” Congress of the past few years.

And what does that make of “We, the people?”
It makes us enablers.

You may say “No way! I don’t even vote, I hate our system so much.”
Sorry… still an enabler.

Allowing “political addicts” to continue to make our laws is the equivalent of letting inmates rule the asylum. It points out the inescapable truth to me that if I do not accept responsibility for who I elect to office or who I return to office (by act or omission), I must then accept some responsibility for their actions (e.g., sending a son to bleed his life into the sand of a Middle East desert; allowing a grandmother to die in agony because a law will not allow her the only medication that will relieve her pain).

One alternative to doing the patriotic, time-consuming, tedious work of researching each and every person for whom we cast a vote is to turn our country over to a benevolent dictator who will take care of us so that we won’t have to take care of ourselves. Even if such an enlightened person exists, is that really what we want?

Not me.

Therefore, I pledge to give up the lazy, irresponsible enabling of addicted politicians. I pledge to vote, and to vote responsibly. I pledge to be a patriot, not an enabler.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead