Now that's an intense statement: We are responsible for the mess we made! And for some, it might tend to bring up anger, defensiveness, guilt, shame, feelings of being blamed, discouragement, and other such emotions. However, for me, I see it as good news! If we are responsible for the mess we made, then we can clean it up, and we can fix it.
I am speaking of our political situation, but it also applies to most of everything in our life. Let's start on the personal level. If for example, when I was in high school, I didn't do my homework and didn't study for an exam, and I failed that exam, I was responsible for that failure. And I could fix it by either asking to retake the test, or starting to behave differently so I didn't fail the next time.
If a teenager chooses to have unprotected sex and gets pregnant, then that also is a choice. Yes, perhaps, there was pressure from a boyfriend, but still a choice was made. Thus the teen is responsible for the pregnancy. I'm not speaking of judgment here, or blame, or guilt, or any such emotion. I'm strictly looking at the facts... cause and effect. One action or cause, leads to a certain result. That's it. Just the plain facts. It's not about judging the action, only at looking at the action and consequence process.
In relationships, we also benefit when we take responsibility for what is taking place. One of my favorite expressions is "it takes two to tango". In other words, if there is an argument, a disagreement, a divorce, or any other challenge in the relationship, each of the two people involved are responsible for their part of that situation. One cannot argue alone, it takes two (or more). One cannot be distant alone, it takes two to participate in a relationship... whether harmoniously and supportively, or not.
At work... didn't get the promotion? Yes, it's easy to blame someone else, but when we are willing to be honest with ourselves and take responsibility for the part we played in that event, then we can recognize what part we played and remedy the situation for the future.
We are never innocent bystanders in our life. And again, I know this statement might rile up some people... because it is always easier to say it was someone else's fault... that we had nothing to do with it. But if we were involved in the situation, we had something to do with it... It's not about placing judgment or criticizing. It's simply about being aware of the role we played so we can make different choices in the future, if we so desire.
I will say it again: It is not about blame, about saying whose fault it is... It takes two to tango... and in the case of a world situation, a lot more than two people are involved in the dance. However, we also are in the dance, we also are involved, and since we cannot control or change the behavior of anyone else, we are responsible for our part in the scenario that is unfolding.
OK, now let's address the elephant in the room... the political situation, not only in the USA but in a lot of other countries, and even within organizations. Speaking for myself, I know that for many years I refused to have anything to do with politics, refused to listen to the news (after all it was all bad news, yes?). So, I have to acknowledge that by not participating in our democracy, I gave my voice away, I gave my vote away, I gave my power away. And I allowed corporations and politicians to run rampant over the environment, over personal health care, over employee benefits and rights, and whatever else has developed that I do not support.
So yes I am responsible! I am obviously not the only one, but I did have a role to play, and I chose the role of bystander.
Now I can deal with that in several ways: I can blame myself and feel guilty; or I can try to defend my actions, or inactions, by saying it wouldn't have made any difference since I'm only one person after all. Or I can stand up and acknowledge that I abdicated responsibility throughout those years, and I can say "enough is enough!" and change my behavior.
People tend to say that this election is the most important election there has ever been, and while some might say that's hyperbole, I would say "yes it is" even if only because it is the one we are in AT THIS MOMENT. We can't fix yesterday, and we can't fix tomorrow, except by taking action today, right now...And of course, there are many things at play at this time in history that were not at play in the past... and a lot of the same scenarios are repeating themselves as well.
If you are an American citizen, you can do your part to fix things on Tuesday, by exercising your right to choose your representative, choosing to speak up and speak out, and going to vote to let everyone know that "you're sick and tired of this and you won't take it anymore".
Is voting the be all and end all? No it isn't. It is only one day, one action. But it is a very important one. To give you an example from daily life: when you've finished a book or a movie, you need to choose the next book you're going to read or the next movie you're going to go see. This sets the tone for the next period of your life. In the same way, but in a much more consequential one, going to vote is choosing what the next book or the next chapter of your life, and of American life, is going to be like.
So yes, we are responsible for the mess we made... so let's fix it! Let's take responsibility for the part we can play in the scenario that is our life, and the life of our country. If everyone chooses to vote, if everyone chooses to get involved in democracy, if everyone says "I'm in", then the situation will be much different.
Let's do it! Because frankly, we are involved, we are "in it", whether we admit it or not. When we read or hear about another senseless shooting, when we hear about separating children from their mothers, when we hear about American children living in poverty while the top 1% hoard the money and the resources, we are involved. It breaks our heart, it smothers our joy, it stops our momentum towards creating a life filled with happiness.
So yes, we are responsible! We can make a difference!
Please start by going to vote, and encouraging everyone you know to go vote. Then let's continue by engaging in the conversation, educating ourselves, making our voices be heard... and together, let's fix a system that is obviously broken.
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
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