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In My Opinion...
When Do We Stop Behaving Badly...
Editor
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 • Posted October 24, 2012

Children can be a difficult and trying exercise in behavior modification and impulse control. When they're young, they do whatever they want, whenever they want. Until their parents, guardians and authority figures step in to explain why they can't behave in such a manner. We discipline them, we explain to them, we teach.

But, some people never grow up. For those individuals, no amount of explaining, teaching or disciplining will change how they behave. They continue on into adulthood repeating the actions that they should have learned to moderate or change long before. And, in a way, we continue to allow them to be childish.

All of us know someone who hasn't yet learned to share. We know someone who only plays the game if they get to be the star. And, we all know someone who truly believes that being meaner, louder or more assertive means that they win every argument and fight.

I guess all of this comes into greater clarity during political campaigns. While candidates tend to learn moderation and control, their surrogates and supporters don't feel that need. As a result, those people don't follow rules of polite society or behave in civil fashion. Mid-term elections can be rather fevered; but, the presidential years are more emotional, more angry and more pitched than ever.

This year has been no exception. On facebook, I see people saying things that are hurtful, mean-spirited, and often, not at all true. Democrats and Republicans seize on every little snippet they find on the internet and put it out into the social media with no explanation or concern for consequences. I've seen friends moving apart over such actions, and I fear it can only get worse. As election day nears, the few restrictions people seem to have had on their behavior have begun to fall away. They have become more willing to say anything, do anything, to score a victory.

In truth, the fighting and squabbling are not harming the election results. They are harming us. They are harming our friendships, our family relationships, our sense of community. For generations, people existed side by side, knowing they had political differences, but also knowing that when a new day dawned, they would all still be united as one.

In our current society, we've begun to believe what we've been told - we must win! Rather than an isolated moment in our lives, elections have become the force that drives our actions all the rest of the year. Rather than our political affiliation being one component of our personality, we have made it the primary trait that we feel compelled to share and express.

And we behave badly. We act out like kindergarten students fighting over a favorite toy, quite certain that, unless we have it, our lives will be less worthwhile. We stomp our feet, we hold our breath and we scream at the top of our lungs. And, like children throwing a tantrum, everyone who sees us has a clear view of the immaturity that is on display.

Maybe the only way to end the bad behavior is to grow up. To understand that there is nothing to be gained from trying to remain a child. Maybe then, we will be able to treat politics as a minor inconvenience in our lives as we select our leaders.

And, maybe once we allow ourselves to remember what it is to be an adult, we can start passing on those lessons to the ones who will follow us and learn from us.

It’s all just my opinion.

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