Last Sunday, my husband started reading to me out loud from the editorial page. He was reading an article written by Molly Ivins called â€œI Will Not Support Hillary Clinton for President.â€
It was a smart, lean, sharp-tongued, no-nonsense, â€œIâ€™m-mad-and-Iâ€™m-not-going-to-take-it-anymoreâ€ article about how she, and most Americans, are sick and tired of lies and lack of real leadership. She spoke up for truth, courage and political reform with impassioned urgency and conviction.
But in light of my own personal experience of late, I had to wonder, did she have to attack Hillary in order to make her powerful point? Did she need to make Hillary Clinton the symbol for fear and equivocation? Or was she just creating a snappy headline that would attract readers?
Politicians, journalists, critics and editorialists communicate in this way all the time. In order to make a strong point, they make someone else wrong. Itâ€™s as if their view or opinion is made stronger by contrasting it against something, or someone, they hate and detest.
When I was maybe nine or ten, I saw my first political Presidential Convention on TV. I couldnâ€™t figure out why every speaker spent all his time insulting the members of the other party and making them wrong. I couldnâ€™t figure out why we, as Americans, couldnâ€™t just vote for the person we wanted without accusing the other guy of being the devil incarnate. The way the crowd at the Convention would scream and cheer as each speaker bashed away at the opposing partyâ€™s political candidate disgusted me, and in that moment, I became forever disinterested in politics.
But politicians arenâ€™t the only ones.
My friend Julee and I were talking the other day about how since we both have decided to focus our thoughts, energy and words on that which is exciting, uplifting and positive that we are having a hard time participating in most everyday conversations with people. Weâ€™ve become excruciatingly aware that most social conversations move to whatâ€™s wrong, what needs to be fixed, and whatâ€™s in our way.
I remember Joseph Goldstein, a great teacher of Buddhism, once saying that he made the decision to practice what Buddhists refer to as â€œright speechâ€ by never talking about any third person. Basically, he never spoke about somebody to someone else. He discovered that 90% of his speech was eliminated.
Recently, I pulled my own Molly Ivins. And while my intentions might have been good, it ended up feeling really icky.
I wrote a blog entry called â€œThe 7 Stages of Performance Anxiety.â€ This entire entry was a reaction to something I had read by Lee Glickstein of Speaking Circles International. Like a politician, I made my point by quoting Lee and then going on about why I didnâ€™t like what he had written. Now, when I wrote it, it seemed innocent enough. I mean, it is a way to make a point, right? People do it all the time, right?
But, after rereading this entry several times, I realized that I really didnâ€™t like this entry at all. It wasnâ€™t because I had misrepresented Leeâ€™s expression, though, admittedly, I hadnâ€™t done the best job of introducing his quote. Nor was it because I no longer agreed with the point I was making. No, I deleted it because I didnâ€™t like the way I had made my point.
Molly Ivins may argue with me, but I know I could have made my point powerfully without ever referring to what Lee had written. I didnâ€™t need to make someone else â€œwrongâ€ to express what felt â€œrightâ€ to me.
Or am I just being a wimp?
The truth is that sometimes pushing against something we donâ€™t like feels good. Sometimes, just blasting something or someone that angers us feels honest, noble and the best course of action. It helps us to start defining what we do want, what we do value. As we release that initial explosion of â€œNo, no, NO!â€ we get to the juicy essence of our â€œYes, yes, YES!â€
There is no right or wrong here. Express the No! Express the Yes! If itâ€™s true and real for you, if it feels connected to you and what you value, go for it! For myself, while I donâ€™t want to get too precious and guarded about what I say or how I say it on this blog, I know that it feels so much better to write what is useful, progressive and provocative in a way that is positive, uplifting and full of â€œYes, Yes Yes!â€