As you know I have a big problem with stereotypes.
This isn’t just about stereotypes about gender or race or ability or sexual orientation or religion or class or age or ability or neurodiversion.
Yeah. Those are the hot button ones . . . the big ones that are easy to see and easy to describe.
But the ones that are bothering me right this exact second are the stereotypes people make about professions, particularly politicians.
Yes. A lot of politicians are greedy.
Yes. A lot of politicians are horn dogs.
Yes. A lot of politicians have teeth that are just too shiny.
But not all of them do.
And to say that all of them do is a stereotype, just like saying all lawyers are wealthy (Assistant DAs in our county are NOT wealthy) or that all doctors are brilliant or that all nurses are good, kind souls.
It’s a stereotype. It’s a generalization.
This past weekend one of my favorite politicians Andrew Yang teared up a little bit after hearing a woman tell the story of how her four-year-old baby girl was accidentally shot and her baby’s twin brother witnessed it. It was at a town hall about gun violence. It was and is a devastating story. The woman (Stephanie) was asking about what Yang would do about unintentional shootings by kids.
After he hugged her, Andrew said that he was emotional because he was imagining that happening to his children. Andrew teared up because he had empathy.
Empathy is not weakness.
Empathy is being human at its best.
Feeling for other people doesn’t make you weak.
Feeling for other people motivates you into action, creates policies and pushes change.
“A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”Brené Brown
You can’t connect if you don’t feel. You can’t lead without compassion or empathy or else your leadership is tyranny, inauthentic and more about you than your country.
At that meeting Andrew Yang answered Stefanie’s question saying, “If we can convince Americans that personalized guns are a good idea then again, if the child gets ahold of the gun then they can’t do anything with it, then it just becomes a very heavy, expensive prop.”
Yang also said, “If you say (to parents), ‘Hey we’ll upgrade your guns for free? ‘ When we can do that, like you can upgrade the guns for free … that would help make kids safer in our homes.”
How would parents say no to that, he wondered?
But his plan isn’t getting the attention. His tears are. Yang’s humanity breaks our ideas of what politicians should be. Politicians have become ‘other,’ unlike the rest of us. They don’t have emotions, right? They are the automatons that Yang is actually warning about – only he warns about automation in relation to the economy rather than warning us about becoming them, emotionless, ruthless, reading their cue cards and teleprompter and giving pat, conditioned responses.
Back in 1972, Edmund Muskie allegedly cried on the steps of the Manchester Union Leader (a newspaper) during a snow storm in New Hampshire while he was running for president. Muskie said he wasn’t crying and that it was melting snowflake on his face. The news said he cried.
My mom was there that day. She said she cried watching him outside the newspaper as he gave his speech.
Muskie was a frontrunner against Richard Nixon. The paper had slurred his wife as someone who liked her booze a bit too much. It also said she told too many jokes. Scandalous, I know. The paper also printed a piece planted by the Nixon administration that said that Muskie said an ethnic slur against French Canadians.
Whether or not Muskie cried for real while defending himself and his wife didn’t matter. The press latched hold again. Tears are not presidential, they said.
In 2008, when I ran for office the second time – the time I lost – the other party said that I was a lovely person but I felt too much and I cried too easily.
How could someone who cared so much be tough enough to battle for her constituents?
Let me tell you a secret: It’s those of us who care too much who battle the hardest.
Back to Stereotypes
Yes, I once ran for office. Twice actually. I won once. I lost once. I’ve never done it again, but that made me officially a politician. So if you put up a post that says all politicians are greedy or selfish or have shiny teeth you are making a generalization that includes me.
The media likes to perpetuate this image. We hear the stories of the bad — the sex scandals, the corruption, the swamp, the money and favors from lobbyists. We don’t hear the stories of the good — the senator who goes out of her way to read to kids every Friday (no photo ops involved) or the ones who lose friends because they fight so hard for something they believe in.
So please stop generalizing about entire groups of people even politicians.
In Maine there are politicians in the state house who are barely scraping by, who earn $18,000 a year, who are serving because they are trying to make a difference and there are politicians who have millions, family legacies and very shiny teeth.
They aren’t the same.
There are politicians who had dads who were truck drivers and politicians who had moms who were insurance CEOs. There are politicians who want to shove all special-ed kids in one school and politicians who find that morally reprehensible.
They are politicians who are the daughters and sons of immigrants and those whose families have been here for centuries. There are politicians who are veterans, nurses, poets. There are politicians whose parents stood in the food line for cheese. There are politicians who have never spent the night in the woods. There are politicians who are gay, straight, female, male, asexual, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, atheist, agnostic.
They aren’t the same.
There are politicians who struggle hard to help. There are politicians who struggle hard to make a little extra cash on the side.
They aren’t the same.
But here’s the other thing. Should it really be news that a presidential candidate has emotions? Shouldn’t we care about policies and ideas and skill-sets?
Shouldn’t we want our leaders to be human? Strong enough to have empathy? Strong enough to think beyond themselves?
A tiny moment of connection from a presidential candidate should be the norm. It should be the norm for all of us.
IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!
My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!
It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!
You can order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?
You can buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.
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