Maria Gutzeit | The Key in an Us-vs.-Them Era: Connect

The past decade seems like an era of huge disconnects, especially if you are talking politics. One side wonders what the heck happened. The other side wonders how anyone can be unhappy. 

According to report by Pew Research Center (“Partisan Antipathy: More Intense, More Personal,” Oct. 10) we’re more divided politically than ever. 

There is little commonality, except for negativity. Pew found that we believe that we can’t agree on the most basic of things. 

“Overall, 73% of the public – including 77% of Republicans and 72% of Democrats – say that voters in both parties ‘not only disagree over plans and policies, but also cannot agree on the basic facts.’”

Nearly half are no fans of their own party, either. 

According to Pew, “Overall, 47% of Democrats and 45% of Republicans say their own party is described very or somewhat well by the phrase ‘too extreme in its positions.’” 

There are a lot of good opinions out there on how to fix this mess. 

Many local writers, and I, have lamented this situation, but clearly that drum needs more beating. The solution is not to cave to fighting, or to check out. 

My New Years’ resolution is to simply connect.

Connect with others. Connect one on one. I find this, for the most part, hugely rewarding. Far better odds than keyboarding through social media. 

I wished a customer service agent a restful holiday on Christmas Eve, and she said she could really use it, because she had two jobs. I asked a mental health worker why he had a table at the L.A. County Library, and we ended up talking for an hour on a myriad of subjects. 

We chatted with everyone from park rangers to fellow campers at Lake Casitas on our post-holiday “glamping” retreat and enjoyed every interaction. 

Connecting in person usually dissolves any notion of us versus them.

Connect with yourself. What do you really care about? What can you let go? Ads, the news or “what’s trending” don’t dictate what is important. 

It is literally impossible to care about everything all at once. If you want to be active on some issues, great. Do what you love, let the rest go, lest you go insane. 

Winston Churchill famously said, “You will never reach your destination if you stop to throw stones at every barking dog.” 

I certainly don’t condone throwing stones at barking dogs, but that is wise advice on focusing on your goals. 

I see many young folks state they shouldn’t have kids due to “what the world is like” or apologizing to future generations for the forthcoming apocalypse. The world is not ending, unless everyone starts to think like that. 

Watch “Tomorrowland.” Go recharge, and frequently. 

Environmental advocate Edward Abbey said: “One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast…. a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.” 

Refresh your body and mind, then come back and get some stuff done. There are lots of people working every day on their part of the solutions. We need you too, but not stressed out and cranky.

Connect the dots. When you have time to breathe, you can connect the dots. 

Learn for yourself, not just based on speeches, or ads, or social media. 

Learn by walking around. Look at things. Talk to people. There is no single, simple answer to anything. 

Gov. Jerry Brown once said, “Things are not as bad as you think, but they are more complicated than you know.” 

The answers do not lie in the headlines or in the proclamations of political parties, activists, legislators or businesspeople. The best answers, the ones that will last, involve all of the above in the solutions. 

Shared buy-in and well-thought-out work is needed on health-care costs, retirement security, climate change, veterans, seniors, housing, traffic, education, water supply, power outages, and more. 

We are the smartest creatures on the planet. Let’s put that to good use in 2020. Prove the polls wrong. Let’s connect.

Maria Gutzeit is a chemical engineer, business owner, elected official, and mom living in Santa Clarita. 

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