Here in Alberta we are once again in the midst of a provincial election.
There are four parties vying to become our government and on Thursday night my wife Gimalle and I watched the leaders of these four parties debating each other in an attempt to win our votes.
I personally was completely underwhelmed by the performance of these party leaders and, while looking for signs of the type of leader I wish to have in my government, I saw instead three lawyers and a doctor doing little more than attempting to discredit their opponents by criticizing and challenging each and every point they presented.
Yesterday morning the local media awarded victory in the debate to the leader of one of the parties and while I agree that she probably did win the debate she did so, in my opinion, simply by being the least unimpressive of the four.
She was the best of the worst.
Her victory was no screaming endorsement of her talent, skill, leadership ability or political platform but was rather, a sad indictment of how ill-prepared and ill-equipped the other three appeared to be.
It was extremely interesting to observe how each of these leaders, at various times, challenged the statements of the others, by categorically stating they were wrong and quite often saying things like, “the fact is…”.
The word “fact” and the statement “fact of the matter” were bandied about freely and each time I heard those words I was reminded of a commanding statement I personally believe to be absolutely foundational to both who we are and how we present ourselves in the world.
This statement is, “Everything we believe to be true, is true – until it isn’t.”
Our world is filled with many highly contentious topics: abortion, capital punishment, global warming, climate control to name but a few.
Each of those topics spark strong emotion in many people and it is quite common to observe (or participate in) passionate, loud, angry and sadly, sometimes violent arguments and fights over the “fact of the matter.”
We as human beings seem to be walking, talking opinions dressed up as facts.
I believe this is because when we strongly believe something to be true, we have little (or no) tolerance for those proffering opposing viewpoints.
Dictionary.com defines “belief” as something believed; an opinion or conviction. It defines “opinion” as a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty and “fact” as something that actually exists; reality; truth.
I have my own slightly different definition of the word “fact.” I believe a fact is something that is irrefutable, indisputable and agreed upon by all.
If we choose to accept that definition we must also choose that in the world in which we live the ratio of facts to opinions would be something like 1:987,654,321,234, 567,891.
Perhaps I’m exaggerating slightly but you get the point, right?
So last night it was telling to see three highly educated, intelligent professionals presenting their opinions and trying to insist, in making us believe that these represented irrefutable, indisputable facts.
There is something truly liberating about buying into the notion that everything we believe to be true is true, until it isn’t.
This allows us to debate freely without hyperbole and anger, and to accept as possible, viewpoints that completely contradict ours.
Accepting that if what we believe to be true is true – until it isn’t, allows us to adopt a perspective that says, “Just because you and I disagree doesn’t mean I’m right and you’re wrong. Nor does it mean you’re right and I’m wrong.”
Most importantly, it doesn’t mean that just because I strongly believe something to be true it is true.
This powerful perspective grants us the latitude to be open to the possibility that an opposing viewpoint may have validity. It also provides us with the ability to expand our minds and examine other possibilities, which we deny ourselves whenever we remain firmly committed to the notion that if we believe something to be a fact, it is an irrefutable, indisputable fact.
“I believe it is so, therefore it is so” is a very limiting stance to adopt as it forces us to dig in our heels and win at any cost as opposed to allowing the possibility of other “facts” to expand our thinking and possibly enrich or lives.
Obviously the intention of the leaders fighting for their political lives is not to create mind stretching debate but rather to create mind narrowing opinions by convincing us that theirs is the only path to heaven and their opponents will lead us all straight to hell.
These four people are, I am sure, good, fine people who are truly committed to making our world a better place.
Politicians should build bridges that connect, not camps that divide, and the way in which they presented themselves on Thursday night did little, in my opinion, to help me decide where to place my X on Election Day.
I’ve always believed that living and voting in elections is not just our democratic right but also our civic obligation and I have never failed to cast a vote.
I will probably give my vote to the first leader who presents his or her platform for our province without devoting equal time in the presentation to bad mouthing and trashing their opponents.
I believe it is quite possible for a political campaign to be successfully run with a positive message while ignoring insults, taking the high road and being role models for decent behaviour.
Perhaps naïvely, I believe one of these four will do that before May 5.
Till we read again.