Every day, we Americans have the freedom to get up and decide what to do with our lives. We can change jobs, move locations, volunteer for nonprofits, work out, visit parks, or sit on our couches and watch news outlets and read political columns.
Unfortunately, in recent years, the media has spent less time reporting the news and more time blaming the other side for the bad news as it occurs. There is little focus on solutions. Imagine if that was how we spent our lives. Imagine that instead of working with our partners and families to make improvements, we just talked about how horrible they are -- demeaning them to their faces and in front of others. What a terrible way to live.
There is a Native American allegory in which a man tells his grandson that two wolves exist inside each of us and they are battling for our souls. One of the wolves is bad; the other is good. The bad wolf embodies vices such as self-pity, resentment, anger, pride, greed, envy and lies. The good wolf embodies virtues such as love, patience, humility, hope, truth and compassion. When asked which wolf wins, the grandfather replies, "Whichever one you feed."
The moral of the story is that what we focus on, what we pay attention to, is what grows. What we don't pay attention to eventually shrinks and becomes less prominent. Let's apply this to politics. Many Americans talk about how horrible our country is and how many faults it has. No doubt, we do have faults, but we also have plenty to be proud of. By taking a broader perspective and changing our focus, we could feed a different wolf.
The current sad state of affairs in the United States is driven by the many media outlets that have become outrage machines. Today, media outlets rarely simply report facts. Instead, they purport to tell us what those facts mean and how we should react to them. This opinion-leading news focus has led to the creation of media outlets that report the same information in almost totally opposite fashion.
Unfortunately, all too often, the summaries of the coverage are all too similar: Our side is good and right, and the other side is wrong and bad. It's not enough to disagree with someone's take on policy or politics, but a next step is taken as well: Since I disagree with them, they must be bad people.
The professional political class, political pundits and media outlets have turned the practice of politics -- necessary to any democracy -- into some type of schoolyard drama marked by name-calling and taunts. It's sad.
Most of us Americans who live in the everyday world interact and work with a mix of people -- some of whom we agree with and others whom we don't agree with. In cases where we don't agree with one person's opinion on a particular subject, we are often able -- if we just spend a little time together -- to find common ground on other subjects and to reach amicable resolutions.
This work is constructive, beneficial and leads to people working together to create something positive. If they are thoughtful and strategic in their process, they might just be able to create something that will help their community and make the world just a little bit of a better place.
Then there are those who make their living by continually feeding the outrage machine, who live in outrage at what the other side is doing and spread the outrage to others, so the others, too, are outraged.
Every day, when we get up, we get to decide: Do I want to create something today or would I prefer to destroy someone today? Do I want to feed the good wolf or the bad wolf?
Choose carefully because your decision will have real long-term consequences. For me, I am going to focus on working to create a better future for my community now and for generations to come.
While talking about how I am right and everyone else is wrong and evil might make me feel better temporarily, it would accomplish nothing constructive.
This leads to my close. After over 15 years of weekly political columns, I am choosing to find other ways to support a constructive lifestyle over a destructive one -- other ways to focus on creating a better future for my community and nation.
Thank you, dear reader, for having read my columns over the years. I hope that some of them helped you choose to feed the good wolf during your days.