Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Abraham Lincoln apparently filled his presidential cabinet positions with people who disagreed with his politics. He made the comment, supposedly, that he wanted to know all sides of an issue before making a position. It’s quite a departure from the current president who at least appears to fire people when they disagree with him.
We all have, on some level, cabinet positions. We surround ourselves with friends and colleagues, and we get to decide what is important in them. When I think about the people I’ve worked with, the people I’ve relied on, the friends I’ve had, I realize how easy it is to befriend people who agree with me. After all, when I get home after a long day, I would kind of like to relax, and avoid being challenged. But the very best friends do not always agree with me. Sometimes they call me on my, well, they are not afraid to tell me when they think I’m making a mistake.
There is a distinct difference between being around people who do not always (or even often) agree with you, and those who are outright hostile. I’ve worked with many petty people who have been hostile to me, I’ve been the target of hostility from petty people who decided they did not like me for no reason other than my position. Unfortunately, in this day and age where it’s now the most easily offended that makes the rules without question, these types of people have far too much power.
It is arrogance for somebody to honestly believe that they know everything, that they can never be wrong, and that nobody else’s opinion has value. There’s an expression that I like, “leaving brains on the table”, meaning that if everybody is not heard, then their intelligence is not added to the conversation.
Today, my demons are acting up in a major kind of way. I keep thinking about the people and times that I believe I have been treated unfairly. Usually, what sets me off more than anything else is when I am ignored. The police department for which I had worked was outdated, and ignorant of modern administrative theory and acceptance. I can guarantee they are still stuck about thirty years in the past. Being a “paramilitary” organization, the chief is the ultimate voice, as he (or she) should since it is the chief that is ultimately responsible for anything that happens, but the people on the command staff have lived in an environment where you just don’t, ever, question your “superior”.
Never question. Never educate. Never inform.
How can anybody expect to grow, to evolve, to improve if they are not open to hearing opposing opinions? I have some friends who are SO extremely on the other side of the spectrum from me that, perhaps, we shouldn’t be friends at all. But those friends all have one thing in common; they respect the opinions of others who do not agree with them, like me. If the respect is there, the friendship is great.
We all have at our core this desire to be validated. We want to have people reflect our opinions, to agree with us so we can feel better about ourselves. Look at any social media page and you see it. Many of my friends (a great majority of them if I’m being perfectly honest with myself and my readers) will agree with me. They re-post the memes that I have reposted from somewhere else, they will “thumbs up” and agree when I make statements. It feels great. I wish I wasn’t so vain, but, you know, it’s who we are. I’m also proud when I have friends comment with dissenting opinions. This means two things; first, it means they feel comfortable to do so with me, safe in the knowledge that, when stated with respect, I will honor their opinions. Second, it’s usually the start of a very interesting online discussion and exchange of ideas. When this happens, it’s extremely rare that either of us actually change our minds, but what a great way to understand the other side, an opinion that is not the same as mine.
This is a lesson that I believe modern politicians really could benefit from. It has not escaped my opinion that elections today are always close. Even a “landslide” often is a win by just a few percentage points. Although I’ve not verified it, it is my understanding that the last presidential election was won by less than nine thousand votes in just a few key states. Yet, when politicians win, they act as if everybody in their district (or the state or the nation) wanted them to win. They tend to make decisions as if their opinion is a mandate by the people. Unfortunately, these political leaders are not only leading the people who voted for them, but those who voted against them as well. Their decisions affect everybody. How can they expect to make good decisions without taking these opposing viewpoints into consideration?