By: Shannon Klaft 

May 19, 2019

Even after traveling to 33 countries and living in 4 of them, I still have an unwavering sense of loyalty and love for my homeland of the USA. As a global citizen, my perspective is layered with years of insight and first hand experiences with people from around the world.

I’ve lived in developing countries and witnessed how we “stimulate their economy” through outsourcing. I’ve breathed the air of our generous gift of vehicles that fail US emissions standards. I’ve lived in two Muslim countries that greeted me with coffee, dates, kindness, and a tax-free salary, despite their negative reputation on my home soil.  My four years of daily interactions in Latin America and the Middle East looked entirely different than the scenes portrayed on US news reports. We often only see the most negative aspects of cultures and religions and let them form our views as a country. My time overseas revealed the detrimental impact of misinformation. The way I was so hospitably treated abroad almost felt unwarranted. 

Following my most recent stint away, repatriating to the red, white and blue was quite thought provoking. In short, I am concerned. I returned to debates about gun control, abortion and race unlike I’ve seen in my lifetime, but the issues and opinions are not what shock me or worry me the most. I’m less bothered by WHERE people stand on political issues, and more concerned about WHY they stand there.

We need to be better informed. It seems I’ve returned to find my fellow citizens wearing either red or blue blindfolds, huddled shoulder to shoulder in a field chanting mindlessly. Nobody can hear each other through the chatter and nobody seems to care. Others are on the sidelines with their hands “tied” in prayer waiting and hoping for divine intervention to fix the state of our nation.  Some are escaping the mayhem by skipping town. The few people that have actually taken the time to examine the issues are scared shitless, as the rest of the country babbles and wanders aimlessly. I want to say, “Hey guys, I’m back…By the way, WAKE UP!”

In order to create a mindful society, we must be intentional about our views, and research the flip side of each argument. We must realize how our roots, personal experiences and upbringing impact the stance we take. As a society, we should refuse to be blindly paraded from one election and social media argument to the next lost in the shuffle like sheep. Arguing without end results is like sleeping. Praying without follow up action is like sleeping. Frankly, we need to wake up! All of us.

So how can we splash some cold water on our faces and come back to reality?

Craft our OWN views- We are designed to seek approval from our social circle. The innate phenomenon of seeking acceptance is not unique to humans. According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, “One study found that when a chimpanzee learns an effective way to crack nuts open as a member of one group and then switches to a new group that uses a less effective strategy, it will avoid using the superior nut cracking method just to blend in with the rest of the chimps. Humans are similar. There is tremendous internal pressure to comply with the norms of the group.” Be aware of your underlying desire to be part of the crowd and think about how it cultivates your belief system. 

Have Gratitude for the Ability to Argue a Point– After living in both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, knowing that a single Tweet or Facebook post against the government could have had me arrested or even killed, was a life changing experience. Receiving the death penalty for publicly voicing opinions about political, and social issues, or criticizing governmental leaders, is a common practice in many countries. I had the first hand experience of constantly watching my back; it feels very restrictive. Regardless of our stance we must be most concerned about preserving our right to have an opinion, publicly share that opinion and realize it’s a luxury that many of us take for granted.

Do Research and Check Sources– People will sadly believe just about anything they read these days. In the past, information was limited and finding it took conscious effort. The action of seeking, put our critical thinking gears into motion. Now, information is delivered to us without hunting for it. When we receive it, we face it with less scrutiny. We read a message, believe it, and repost it without questioning it. We must critique each dose of “facts” spoon fed into our eager mouths before spewing them at our next family dinner.

Steer Clear of Blindly Taking a Broad Brush Approach– Unfortunately many people choose their views by default. We obliviously pick a side and stick with it.  Declaring, “I am a Democrat so I believe XYZ.” or “People of my religion advocate for XYZ.” is a dangerous approach. What about YOU? What do YOU believe? (Not your parents, best friends, neighbors or leaders.) Don’t just sit back and ignorantly follow. Know that you can have a mix of liberal, conservative and moderate views if that is what is true to you. Deliberately crafting your opinion is critical. If you are truly a believer and advocate for exclusively one side, at least know WHY.

Be Open to Change– As we come across new information, experience new things, and meet new people, we are allowed to grow and change. Being stuck in the same mindset for our whole life is a sign that we really need to venture outside of our bubble a little bit. Interacting with people of a different viewpoint can either open your mind to a new perspective or solidify current views. Open your mind. Know that myopic thinking will limit you and our society as a whole. 

Respect the Other Side– I know it’s painful sometimes, but we’ve all got to try!  I have heard people say, “I refuse to respect someone who supports XYZ.” I get it, but you have to realize that they think you are just as crazy as you view them. Think about it. It is a hard concept to wrap your head around, but once you understand that as strongly as you feel about one side of an issue, there are others who are equally passionate about the other side, our society will start to listen to each other.

The USA has a lot of problems that will take years to fix, but one that is easy to solve now is our own ignorance. It starts with individuals being more deliberate, more aware and more AWAKE.

In summary: Speak up about your views, whatever they are, but first know exactly where they came from and why. Know that you are privileged to be able to voice your opinions in the first place. Listen to what others are saying. Don’t just sit back and argue or pray without ALSO exerting some effort. Use the feelings as momentum to create positive change. Only then, will we start to move forward. Let’s admit it; we are stuck! Deliberately crafting our views and taking action will propel us towards a more intentional way of life. 

Married couples don’t stay together when they can’t see eye to eye. Children struggle with keeping friends if they refuse to compromise. Our country will not survive if we isolate ourselves on the edges of extremes and refuse to temporarily meet in the middle to talk over a coffee.

*EnlightenMENTE LLC exists to create a more deliberate society. We must be mindful of what we buy, eat, watch, consume, say, do and believe.  To learn more about EnlightenMENTE’s mission of creating a Deliberate Society or coaching services and resources, check out the Commit to Thrive Coaching Program.


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