We Can’t Have it Both Ways – Or Can We?

It was 2008. My colleagues and I were cleaning out our offices preparing to be unemployed because of our organization’s bankruptcy. Given that, we threw caution to the wind and talked about politics.

I was a different person then.  I had strong opinions formed over a lifetime by those around me who shared the same thoughts.

My colleague, in discussing the upcoming election, said that the global community distrusts and dislikes the United States.  I believe she was focused primarily on what was then 7 long years of war instigated by our country.

My first impression after that statement?  I didn’t really care that other countries didn’t trust us. We, after all, had a long and glorious history of hard-earned freedom and opportunity where anyone could, with a little hard work, succeed.

That was me in 2008.  It seems like a lifetime ago now.

I am writing this in 2020 in my home office, banned from doing anything but shopping at the grocery store and ordering take-out.  It’s going on four weeks now – a very long time to do nothing but ponder things.

Apparently questioning my strong opinions formed over a lifetime by those around me who shared the same thought has become my new normal.

I think it all started with a black President who, I believed, wasn’t acting as “my President,” because he was shining light on the fact that freedom and opportunity may not be as equally distributed as I’d thought. Honest white cops who held a prejudice against black people were simply informed by the fact that blacks were more often in trouble, right?  That’s why they were more cautious, and perhaps drew their firearm more frequently when approaching blacks. Perhaps.

This challenge to my paradigm wasn’t instantaneous.  It evolved over several years, as events occurred. But there were whiffs of prejudice you could begin to hear in dialogue. People on either side of the fence were jumping in to defend their actions, a little more loudly with each event.

It hit home for me a little bit more when Roger Ailes and Harvey Weinstein were called out for the pigs they were.  Those nagging “just below the surface feelings” that women weren’t quite as far along in equality as I’d believed grew with every news release.

But they also made me revisit my own past as a woman in a man’s world.  I was successful without compromising my own values. Was I just lucky?

As all of this pondering mess was swirling around my head, we entered a new election where our options were a woman or a womanizer. I didn’t much care for either, honestly.  I was looking for credibility, experience, intelligence and a presence that would unite the country.

And here we are….more polarized than ever. I see MAGA and wonder what is really behind the desire to make America great again.  I see fighting against immigration laws and worry about where my tax dollars will go. My swirling head has now become a tornado, and it’s starting to hurt.

Anger seems to be the currency of the day.  Who can generate more anger by their vitriolic and hateful words? Who can make the other side look worse?

The words to a song from Les Miserables got my attention the other day. “With so much anger in the land, how long before the judgment day, before we cut the fat ones down to size.” (Watch the video at the link. Sound familiar?) As I listened to those words, I realized that I am angry. I saw a Facebook meme that helped me formulate why I am angry.

I think I’m angry because everyone thinks they’re right. But if everyone is right, and at the same time, everyone is different, where is the hope?

We can’t have it both ways. Or can we?

Maybe I’m just naïve but could the answer possibly be that we, as humankind, acknowledge that there are other wants, needs, and opinions that are just as valid as ours?  Could it be that if we were to simply make the decision to look beyond ourselves and find the good in others, we might actually become better ourselves?

Is the only want to have it both ways, to let go of our own personal “ways” just a bit so that we can allow others to have theirs?

Perhaps we are afraid that if we let go just a little bit, “they” will win.  That’s a valid point and one I worry about.

So we just yell louder and hope to convince others.  How’s that working for us now?

I wish I had an easy answer.  All I have are questions, fears, and anger.

Ah, how about this. We stop putting polarizing political memes on social media.  Instead, we encourage ourselves, our friends and our relatives to read various sources of news, including those they don’t agree with.

And then start listening.

We can even start a new hashtag – #standwithallofus.  Because it really is about all of us and the only way any of us can win is if we all win. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we are all in this together.


Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson
CAROL is the founder and Principal of Anderson Performance Partners, LLC, a business consultancy focused on bringing together organizational leaders to unite all aspects of the business – CEO, CFO, HR – to build, implement and evaluate a workforce alignment strategy. With over 35 years of executive leadership, she brings a unique lens and proven methodologies to help CEOs demand performance from HR and to develop the capability of HR to deliver business results by aligning the workforce to the strategy. She is the author of Leading an HR Transformation, published by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2018, which provides a practical RoadMap for human resource professionals to lead the process of aligning the workforce to the business strategy, and deliver results, and writes regularly for several business publications.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE


  1. Carol – Thank you for a. very thought-provoking piece. I sat for a few minutes after reading it, not knowing how to respond. And then a thought popped into my mind: “War Games.” In the climactic scene of the movie – – the computer runs countless battle scenarios and finally determines that:

    “The only winning move is not to play.”

    As a nation, we are still in battle mode with polarized sides lobbing verbal bomb after verbal bomb after verbal bomb at each other. And the underlying reason that the current crop of TV and radio “thought leader” generals play the game is that hate and conspiracy sell. Two of the most popular “thought leader” generals earn $36 million (TV personality) and $85 million (Radio personality) respectively.

    Hate and conspiracy sell.

    And it doesn’t even matter if these “thought leader” generals believe what they’re spewing. Is it real hate for “the other”? Or just contrived hate for “the other”? Do they really believe the conspiracy theories they weave about COVID-19 are true?

    It doesn’t matter because either way, their listeners believe it.

    And many of our representatives in government condone hate and conspiracy as “free speech.” And often mimic it. Hate. Conspiracy. Sell.

    As long as hate and conspiracy sell, we will never get to the point of understanding that the only winning move is not to play.

    “If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we are all in this together.”

    I wish I could stand up and fist pump with a mighty “Yes!” But I’m not so sure.

    But thank you, thank you for your heart-felt expression and for making me think.

    • Hi Jeff – what a great analogy, if not quite the “positive” I’m trying for. 🙂 That said, apparently I am naive enough to think there’s another way. As I read your description of the media and politicians, the looming question is, “Why do we let them?”

      But thanks so much for your comment.

    • Carol —
      It may not be naiveté as much as optimism. Don’t lose that. I can all too easily auger in these days and play “Jaded Jeff.”

      And to your last question, “Why do we let them?” I have two thoughts:
      1. Somewhere along the way our education system is failing us. Our nation’s ignorance of our history, government, and political gimmickry is stupefying. Stupefying. I cannot fathom what many people are willing to believe as “alternative facts.” And that observation comes from a former high school history and government teacher.

      2. Come November 3, we can start to scratch back our sanity, honor, and self-respect.

    • I agree that our education system is failing us, but before that, I think we are missing a commitment to a set of values that can be taught from infancy. That takes courageous and careful leadership which we ain’t got. I wish I felt more positive about November 3.

    • Carol — That’s a great point. Job 1: agree on the values and agree that no one group owns them, i.e., no group of states is more patriotic than another grouping of states etc.

  2. Wonderful, Carol.
    I’m starting two new projects (both not-for-profit).

    One is “Character over Category,” the subheading is “What I am is a coincidence. Who I am is a choice.” I want to open a door for people to shift from sticking themselves and others in categories (race, gender, religion, political party, age, and . . . ) to sharing about who rather than about what.

    The second is “back2different,” a podcast (the first will be up by week’s end) and site for sharing stories and perspectives about taking this “time out” to examine our assumptions and attitudes and such in order to “make it new” as Wallace Stevens said.
    That said (whew), I’d love to talk with you.
    Be good. And well.

    • Hi Mac – your project sound awesome. As you can tell, I have a wee bit of passion around the subject. Always ready to talk about it. Thanks so much for your comment.