Archive for March, 2013
Throughout time the idea of love has confounded psychologists, philosophers, romantics and skeptics. What is love? Is it, like Tina Turner claims, “a second hand emotion?” Is love, pure as Paul claims in Corinthians:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
We live in a society where the divorce rate is over 50%, where the idea of love is brandished around in greeting cards and songs, but little understood. I’m thinking about this after a three month process of breaking up with someone after 16 years, going through a divorce, moving to a much smaller apartment, and making decisions involving kids and the future.
Lest anyone feel sorry for me, the process was amicable, the right course of action, mutually agreed upon, and we remain friends. That adds poignancy to the question, however. At some point in our discussions we had to deal with the question that maybe being able to not hate the other person and just co-exist was as good as it gets. “There are lots of miserable people staying together,” one of us said. Perhaps the idea of love is deceptive.
We still decided to separate – the lack of a deep relationship had yielded stagnation and wasn’t good for the kids. We realized that mutual annoyances and distance/disagreements were casting a pall over the household that was bad for everyone. Yet once we did think we loved each other. Did we? Was it an illusion?
Romantic love is often separated from other forms of love. I have a love of life, a love of humanity, a deep love for my children. Parental love is unconditional, romantic love tends not to be. Love of others, life and humanity is almost always filled with conditions – I love my fellow human until the bastard cuts me off in traffic. We’ll profess love for others and the sanctity of life until there’s a war and then people even rejoice over dead civilians.
Romantic love is said to have stages. For about four months we enjoy the “halo effect,” a sense that the other is the best thing that ever came into our lives, not noticing the faults and channeling our desire for love and connection into a belief it’s there. What we don’t know about the other, we fill in with our imagination of what an ideal should be. And with each side trying to impress the other, both play the part of the other’s ideal, reinforcing the halo.
Then reality bites. People spend more time together, they let their true selves show. Soon disappointment sets in, resentment over differences, and walls are built. Love becomes conditional, the other needs to change how they behave, or if they don’t, their habits irritate. At that point love can go two directions. It can fade due to the building of walls and hidden resentments, or the couple can try make it work. The important question: how do you make it work? How do you know if love is fading due to choices made in the relationship, or some kind of deep incompatibility?
I think the answer is to let go of fear and embrace acceptance. That doesn’t mean it will work, but one will learn more quickly if there is real incompatibility and be able to avoid falling into a delusion.
Fear prevents us from showing our true selves to others. Early on, we’re afraid perhaps of losing the other. So we hide things, don’t admit true feelings, push aside annoyances, hide bad habits, and aren’t fully honest. We’re afraid the other will judge us for our past, and thus we might rationalize not opening up by saying the past doesn’t matter, rather than discussing ones’ full self and experiences. Fear causes us to create an image for our lover or mate, and not be true to ourselves.
The mirror image of fear is not accepting the other for who he or she is. That lack of acceptance, of course, creates incentive for the other to hide part of themselves. Love requires accepting the other person as they are. If love is there both people will change in some ways and in fact grow together over time. That can’t happen without acceptance. Without acceptance walls form and people will grow apart rather than together.
To be sure, this kind of ‘unconditional love’ isn’t possible for all couples. But if they are open, honest, and accepting, they can find out early that it just isn’t right for them to be together and they won’t fall into the trap of fooling themselves by thinking it’s good and then wondering what went wrong. They can recognize early the reality of their incompatibility and not let it destroy their ability to be just friends. And if they find out that they really do fit and “get” each other, they can build a path to a long term loving relationship.
Or that’s my theory. Obviously, I haven’t made it a reality. I’m trying to learn from my mistakes and not let go of the belief that true long term love is possible.
My blog posts may reflect more on my personal situation rather than politics in coming weeks because with all this going on politics has seemed rather boring. I’m really doing fine – it’s emotional at times, and I stopped blogging for awhile just to handle all the change. But life is about change, and our quality of life reflects how we respond to change.
The Republican party is congratulating itself for following through with the sequester and avoiding any new taxes — this time in the form of closing tax loopholes which most Republicans once favored — but the continuing crisis risks putting the country into a double dip recession while the American system appears dysfunctional.
The GOP wants to blame Obama for “not leading.” That’s false. We have a divided system of government and the President has never been able to lead Congress. The President can and has over the decades negotiated with Congress, made compromises, and cut deals, but divided government means checks and balances. When it works, extremes are avoided and pragmatic compromise is reached. When it fails, gridlock ensues.
So what next?
The Republicans are internally divided, as everyone knows. But that’s nothing new, in a two party system there will be vast divisions as a matter of course. Usually parties gravitate to the center, where most voters are. This isn’t happening with the Republicans, at least not yet.
The pragmatists want to move towards the center and relegate the “tea party” wing of the party to the sidelines. They think the core problem for the GOP is that the far right has had too much a say over GOP policies and made compromise seem a bad word. Symbolic is the way the far right torpedoed the effort by President Bush and John McCain to get comprehensive immigration reform passed in 2007. If they had passed that, voting patterns today might be much more friendly to the Republicans.
The most insipid slogan from the far right is that “compromise is a violation of principle.” To pragmatists, strict adherence to “principle” is mindless; context matters and compromise is a virtue. They hope to attract candidates that are moderate, reasonable, likable and able to get things done.
The jihadists don’t want to compromise. Bring on the sequester! Hell, many wanted the US to default on our debt and would be happy to shut down the government. Ted Cruz of Texas acts like a little McCarthy calling people “communist” (note to tea party: calling people communist ceased to mean anything after the end of the Cold War). Believing they represent what America “should be” they are waging a holy war to save the country. They are convinced global warming is a fraud – and due to cherry picking of dubious claims some actually believe that evidence is on their side! Some on this wing of the GOP wants to simply burn everything. They’re holy warriors!
Though it appears that while the jihadists hold the House Republican caucus hostage for a moment, the pragmatists are gaining the upper hand, especially after the unexpected defeats of 2012. Democrats gained in the Senate, kept the Presidency despite economic difficulties, and though the GOP held the house, Democrats got more votes overall. But the pragmatists need to change too – they need to learn how to connect with all voters.
The core problem of the Republican party was on display in the recent interview by Mitt and Ann Romney with Fox News. While most of the time Romney was gracious and reasonable, when they talked about their defeat it was clear they don’t get it. Mitt claimed that Obama appealed to minorities because of Obamacare — get it, that “minorities want free stuff, the government is bribing them” line. That disdain and disrespect for a large chunk of Americans — the core of the 47% quote — is a mindset that destroys the GOP brand. They want to think they are virtuous hard working self-reliant Americans while those Democrats and minorities are lazy moochers who want a handout. That is not only wrong, it’s so idiotic that it borders on the delusional.
Of course, Ann wasn’t much better, blaming the media, acting as if it were self-evident that her husband was right for the job. If anything their interview showed why the country dodged a bullet by not electing him – and how the GOP blame game prevents them from confronting real problems within their message and policy preferences. And Romney is one of the pragmatists!
In an ideal world the Democrats would be coming to the debate demanding tax increases while trying to defend so-called entitlements and aid to those already suffering the most. The Republicans would counter demanding spending cuts and deep entitlement reform.
After a process of negotiation the result would be a compromise. Entitlement reform and spending cuts that piss off the left wing of the Democratic party alongside tax increases that piss off the right wing of the Republican party. The idealists would be trumped by the pragmatists on both sides, that’s how our system is supposed to work.
But that won’t happen. The jihadists have hijacked the Republican party and they won’t compromise. It’s all spending cuts and deep entitlement reform or nothing. And of course, with a demand like that they’ll get nothing. The deficit will grow faster than if they compromised, they’re shooting themselves in the foot.
So President Obama needs to make them an offer they can’t refuse. He needs to offer them real cuts through a restructuring of programs that brings about significant savings, in exchange for a mix of tax reform to increase revenue and investments to have our economy competitive for the new century.
The President should be specific. He should expect but not fear criticism from his own left flank. He should tell the American people “these are the cuts and reforms the Republicans want, and we’re willing to compromise and give them that, but they won’t take yes for an answer because they’re protecting tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy fat cats. They care more about protecting the rich than cutting the deficit and reforming wasteful programs.”
At that point, Republican pragmatists will realize that this is the best they can possibly achieve and will be good for the country. They will be able to undermine the jihadists. Without a compromise, it becomes the big campaign issue of 2014. To tea partiers thinking 2014 will be another 2010, think again. The Democrats learned their lesson, they’re already targeting districts for a ground game more like a Presidential year than an off year election.
After all, if the GOP can’t compromise at all, well, all the President has is the bully pulpit and the powers of the executive branch. Expect him to use both.