We Have to Make a Choice Now

I read a poem on Facebook this morning that I had to really ponder to see how I felt about it.  The poster called it “optimistic” but in my first read-through, it seemed very dark.

Good Bones, by Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.

Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine

in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,

a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways

I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least

fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative

estimate, though I keep this from my children.

For every bird, there is a stone thrown at a bird.

For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,

sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world

is at least half terrible, and for every kind

stranger, there is one who would break you,

though I keep this from my children. I am trying

to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,

walking you through a real shithole, chirps on

about good bones: This place could be beautiful,

right? You could make this place beautiful.

What evolved for me as the key concept was “selling the world.”

Is that what we’re trying to do now?  Are we putting our hearts and souls into selling others on our own way of thinking?

The election made it clear that we are a divided country, with an abundance of strongly held personal values, beliefs, and visions for our country that do not agree.  Not only do they not agree, but on the surface, they appear to be diametrically opposed.

What got us to this point that we are so absolutely sure we are right about our beliefs and visions that we are willing to throw away relationships simply on the application of a label that may or may not define each of us?

Perhaps, more importantly, the question needs to be, “Are we going to allow this division to happen?”

That is a choice each of us will make in the next few weeks.  We can hunker down, spend hours on social media trying to convince others that we are right, and calling them names if they don’t agree.  That is a choice.

We could also take a step back, breathe, and see people for themselves rather than an artificial label.  That is a different choice.

Call me naïve (and many have) but I think we have it in us to stop trying to sell our worldview and allow the beauty of many diverse world views to emerge.

We probably need to let the dust settle and the raw emotions run their course.  But at some point, we have a choice to make.  Do we continue to try to sell, or do we look for a way forward 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.

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  1. Carol — For personal reasons, I have largely stepped back from social media, including BC 360′, but I try to keep up with writers’ work that I admire. I include you in that small group. What I appreciate about your writing – and you demonstrate it here – is that you don’t try to have all the answers. I appreciate your vulnerability with uncertainty.

    Specifically to this article, I am totally with you on this: “…stop trying to sell our worldview and allow the beauty of many diverse world views to emerge.” Whatever happened to live and let live? Why do all things have to be “my way or the highway”? If we can’t all simply embrace diversity, can we just agree to be neutral about someone’s life choices with which we might not agree? For example, for a couple of strongly held beliefs, I am NOT a religious person. But I don’t make it my life’s work to convince others not to be religious.

    Thank you for your writing.

    • Thank you, Jeff, for this. I needed your kind words here today. I too am at the point where I want to step away, but I’m having trouble doing so because “it” has invaded my personal and family life. A comment in my hometown group: “Because at a certain point this changed from normal politics to a morality issue. If your moral compass is off I cannot trust you and we do not need to be friends.”

      Why? Where do we go from here?

      You are right that it seems to have transcended everyday stuff and become a religious crusade.

      Damn Canada….sure wish they’d open their borders….

    • Stepping away may give you time to assess the original connection, what it was based on to begin with. It may be salvageable; it may not be. A sad fact of our times. I am reminded of the lyrics from the old Crosby, Stills Nash and Young song, “For What It’s Worth.”

      There’s something happening here
      What it is ain’t exactly clear
      There’s a man with a gun over there
      Telling me I’ve got to bewareThink it’s time we stop
      Hey, what’s that sound
      Everybody look what’s going downThere’s battle lines being drawn again
      Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong again
      Young people speaking their minds once again
      So much resistance from behind

    • That’s so funny, Jeff. Joe and I started taking guitar lessons as a distraction during the pandemic, and this song is one of the first chord patterns the teacher showed us.
      At that time, my remark was that, “This really isn’t new – the division has been there for a long time.” Joe has confidence that it will work itself out. I hope he’s right but I am cynical.

    • I wish I shared Joe’s – your husband’s as well as Biden’s – optimism. The ultimate roots of our division are power and money (control), and those are unlikely to give way to any patriotic “let’s work together” emotional salve. What was the capstone of “45’s” presidency? A massive tax cut for the already wealthy. Next? Drastic reduction in environmental regulations to reduce costs and increase profits for businesses.

      I know you to be an avid reader. Have you ever read Dark Money by Jane Mayer? It explains a lot.

    • That sounds a lot like Evil Geniuses: the Unmaking of America by Kurt Anderson. The power structure that began in the 1980s has cemented itself to the point where even 8 years is too short to unravel it. What has been so powerful to me, is that this book took everything I was raised to believe was right, and made me question everything. I believe that is a good thing. It hurts my brain, but “them’s the breaks.”

  2. It is not going to be easy or occur quickly, but we can all play a part in the healing. Engage in dialogue with a family member or friend who is on the other side of the political wall. Identify things you have in common and listen to understand the areas where you disagree. I firmly believe when we have a dialogue without the name calling, mocking and vitriol we will discover we have more issues in common than those that divide us.

    • I agree with you Frank, but I’ve tried mightily for several months, and I’m not having much success. Close family and close friends. I’m overwhelmed with how dug in people are. But thanks for commenting.

  3. I wish I had a good answer for you Michael. About the best I can come up with is that each of us has the power to do things differently and not fall into the patterns of vilifying others. Like you, I’m receiving solicitations to take part in the “celebration” of winning. The latest was so abhorrent, I forwarded it to the Chairman of the Democratic Party, telling him that I just finished crying at the possibility of unity in Biden’s speech, and now find the same damning rhetoric by the democrats against the republicans. I’m just sad because I believe it doesn’t have to be this way. I saw someone defend de-friending another who supported the opposition, saying it was a moral issue now and a difference of opinion meant the individual couldn’t be trusted any longer. Really?

    The only thing I can control, I guess, is me. I can point out childish behavior, no matter which side it erupts on. That’s about the best I can do. Thanks for commenting.

  4. It’s an interesting question/proposition. As you point out, many of the world views are directly antithetical to each other. I’m unsure how we celebrate both. Perhaps you can give some thoughts?

    I mostly hear Trump voters being upset. They have many reasons to be, right now. Maybe time will soothe those wounds.

    Yet, I got this text from MoveOn “Hi, Michael, it’s Christopher with MoveOn. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are headed to teh White House. Celebrate by ordering MoveOn’s new, FREE “We Resisted. We Voted We Won” sticker!”

    So, I don’t see where there is a desire to find a way forward together. Just ask Keith Olbermann.

    I’m not sure who wants to find a way to move forward together. It used to seem to be the talking heads and pundit class were out for blood and destruction. Now it is on mainstreet.

    Where do you see interest in this?