I’ve been watching and listening to all the commentary, recriminations, denial, blame, rationalizations, handwringing and everything else that comes after getting beat in elections. I’m not saying that I don’t agree with some of it, that I don’t ever engage in it or that I’m bigger than all of that. I’m not, believe me.
When our team loses, we can all point to the bad call that the ref made or some unfair advantage that our opponent had or the big chance that we missed because the coach didn’t understand something that, in hindsight, we all know could have been perfectly exploited when the opportunity was there to do that. But we can’t unlose the game – even if we’re 150 percent right. It doesn’t matter after the clock runs out. But the good players and teams know that even after a losing season, another season is not all that far off. And the winners know that too.
Back when I was learning the public communications field in the U.S. Air Force, I had an extra job working for an AM-FM radio station in Ishpeming, Michigan. It consisted of going to local government meetings with a tape recorder, following the action, conducting interviews and filing reports that were part of the next day’s news programming.
After a particularly raucous series of meetings of the Marquette City Commission, I went to a local restaurant to talk with Peter Embley and gather some insight about what was going on. Peter was a community activist who always had interesting things to offer to the public discourse, but he was also regarded as something between a troublemaker and a crackpot. I’m not sure that he minded that and he had long been accustomed to marching to his own drummer. At one point in the conversation, I expressed some frustration that what seemed like a perfectly well-thought out policy alternative was rejected without discussion by the city commission. Between the two of us, I blamed them for being so obviously short-sighted. And that is when he corrected me with a truth that I have never forgotten.
‘We want to blame others when they don’t agree with us, but it is our own fault. It is our job to fully explain the wisdom in our views and why others should agree. When we can’t do it, then it is our own failure. It’s not their fault for not agreeing. It’s ours that they didn’t. We are the people who failed to make a compelling case and we are the people who have to fix it.’
As tempting as it may be to want to agree with those who claim that we are surrounded by fools, the best place to look for the first person who can do something about creating a more just and promising future is in the mirror. So take a long, hard look.