Make America Great … For Once

It’s that time of year again when the mud is slung, the insults are spewed, and the skeletons are brought out of the closet. You guessed it – it’s time to pick our nation’s leader! It’s a time in America in which we become polarized and play into our cognitive biases. Red or blue, no matter which candidate you chose, you’ll have to defend against the naysayers while naysaying the opponent. There are two imperfect men being offered to us with a flurry of premeditated propaganda and ruthless character assassinations. The entire circus has brought me to a point of self-reflection. What if it were me?

Imperfect by Design

I’m far from perfect. If it were 1992 and I was at the Sheraton in NYC declaring, “I did not inhale,” it would’ve been a lie. If you’ve read about some of my growing pains already, you’ll also know that stealing could be added to the list of mud to be slung about me. And that part is in writing on the internet, so you know it could be easily exploited. I’ve also had plenty of moments in my adolescent life in which I became too intoxicated and likely recorded.  The release of such a video could be a source of profit for an old friend. I’ve lived a full life, a life full of mistakes, and bad judgement.

But my biggest blunders have been my most valuable lessons. Without having some severe errors in judgement, I wouldn’t be as self-aware and self-adored.

So why do we expect our country’s leaders to fall under a different category? With each election comes a new set of lies and deceit. Will anyone running for POTUS stand up to the mudslinging and, instead of denying it say, “I did make that mistake. Here’s what I learned. And this is how my perspective has changed since then.” Why do we expect perfection? Why do we deny their darkness when we all have our own darkness?

The Darkness

Human trafficking, domestic violence, racism, police brutality, sexism, mental health disorders, and drug abuse are some of the topics on this election’s mud-slinging docket. It’s great to see so many citizens enraged over these issues – superficially – for a handful of months. But this darkness exists in our society every day. And it exists because it’s uncomfortable to talk about. Most of the issues are also easy to hide and they fester when they’re given the darkness they crave. They mainly exist within people in our immediate social circles, not only our political candidates. Yet we say, “He would never do that,” or “She would never do that.”

Chances are, if a person is involved in some easily concealed darkness, they won’t openly admit it. They’ll sweep it under the rug. It’s much easier to deflect than to take accountability. And if you’re in power, you could even change the laws to make sure you don’t have to be held accountable. In looking at one study done on domestic violence, The Bala Study, we can see deflection can be invasive, even in the highest courts of law.

According to the 2008 study conducted by law professor Nicholas Bala and three other researchers, in the context of custody disputes, mothers deliberately falsify reports [of abuse] less than two percent of the time. Fathers, on the other hand, are 16 times more likely to deliberately falsify reports. That, in turn, causes the courts to distrust reports from mothers.

That shouldn’t be surprising. Much like our most powerful leaders, abusers make false reports, deflect, and project. They don’t tell the truth about what they’ve done. They don’t apologize. They don’t take accountability. They lie.

Pure Evil?

There are people in the world who crave power and control. Most of them will hide their flaws. They’ll deflect the severity of their wrongs. They’ll project their own toxicity into their narratives about others.

If we want to thrive, we must look for leaders who own up to their pasts. We must look for leaders who’ve learned hard lessons. We must look for leaders who accept accountability. And we must stop demanding perfection.

Let’s stop throwing mud. Let’s shine a light into the darkness, accept its ubiquity, accept each other, learn to heal, forgive ourselves, and forgive others.

It’s the only way to move forward.


JoAnna Bennett
JoAnna Bennett
Mother, Marketer, Writer, and Reader. I’m a mother of two wonderful little humans. I’m also an avid reader, an insatiable learner, and a self-acknowledged survivor. I’m grateful to work at O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) because I’ve learned the self-soothing and restorative craft of writing. I used to resist calling myself a writer because I have a finance degree. I naively thought I needed an English degree to effectively express myself in writing. But now, writer is a title I proudly wear, and writing is something I’ll practice for the rest of my life.

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  1. Joanna — Your very last word – “forward” – is the one that caught my attention. We – as a country – currently don’t have agreement that “forward” is the way to go. Those currently in power espouse a bizarre take on the “Back to the Future” movie series, only this new film, which is currently in production, is titled “Future to the Back.” Somehow, the script reads, we are supposed to return to a wonderful past where everything was “better.”

    It’s hard to move a country “forward” when we have opposing push and pull forces; when some are looking to the past instead of what could be ahead.

    And “Let’s return to a glorious past” is not a new script either here or around the world. Germany’s National Socialism of the 1930s is the classic blueprint. Look how things turned out there.

    Our “problem” is that we only half-heartedly really believe in our nation’s North Star – our national DNA, what we believe in: E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. And that is true historically for us. From Day One. People as represented by their political affiliations have always wanted define “many” on their own terms.

    The founders were right to warn us of the danger of political parties.

    But in the end, you are right: shinning the light on the darkness is the only way to really move forward.

    • Oh Jeff! This reply warmed my heart. You have so many good points that I didn’t think of prior. And we seem to be on the exact same page with our thinking.

      I’m hoping we’ll be able to move forward. Although it may seem pretty bleak at the moment, I’ve got to have some faith in the uprising. Things usually have a way of coming together after they are torn apart.

      Thank you for you reply. It gives me much to think about. I’m grateful to know you my friend.

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