May 30, 2024

What Happened?

What’s wrong in the U.S.?

My friends at The Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch in North Dakota, a Lutheran home for off-track kids, say that the question to ask about each child is not “What’s wrong?” It’s “What happened?”

Lots of pundits are happy to claim a paycheck for pontificating about “what’s wrong” in the U.S. today (i.e., why we’re so divided), and most point a very Knower/Judger finger at the other pundits’ K/J claims. FOX at CNN. FOX at CNBC. Or CBS at NBC. Trump at Biden and vice versa. Straight at LGBTQ+, at Black, at white. The list goes on. I think the finger-pointers have always been there, just not at such an amplitude.

What happened?

In a nutshell, as a population, I believe we’ve lost our Learner/Researcher attitudes. We’re so invested in our K/J assumptions that there’s no room in my narrative for yours.

Consider an example of the couple who’ve decided they no longer want to be married. If this couple acted from their Learners/Researchers, they could proceed openly and constructively in the present. They could generally accept each other’s wants in the split and separate in a way that makes continuing life, as individuals, both possible and productive. I have personally coached clients through such a process. It’s beautiful and rewarding to observe.

Consider instead that the couple have decided there’s little to like in each other and they want to continue spatting. In this situation the couple are so steeped in their K/J beliefs about life, fairness, their spouse, their self-worth, etc., that civil conversation between them is virtually impossible. (These folks make lawyers long waiting lists and lots of money!)

Instead of asking what’s wrong, let’s ask what happened?

Somewhere, somehow, I believe, the individuals believed they could mold the other into the person they preferred. Had they accepted that all the incompatibilities were relatively fixed during dating, they could relate instead from their Learners/Researchers. This might then give them some ability to envision what life together could look and feel like and where to compromise for harmony to prevail.

I have seen very few K/J couples get on the same path recently regarding parenting, culture, political persuasion, relationship to finances, etc. I think flexibility, a trait that seems rare all the time, remains key to a long-lasting and mutually satisfying relationship. Perhaps the same thing is happening in America at present.

Consider the past for a moment, when couples that supported opposite politics successfully dated. Since the end of World War II, right-leaning men have remained happily married to left-leaning wives. Even competing politicians back then seemed to better accept differences and pursue mutually satisfactory outcomes for all their constituents.

The past decade’s K/J couples, in my experience, seem to quickly head for divorce by virtue of “irreconcilable differences.” Reconcilability is a choice, so the fact that divorce usually wins out tells me that neither person wants much to do with the other’s goals or ambitions. Neither calls on their Learner/Researcher, so their K/Js dig in and end up at an impasse.

The individuals split up, move out, and start life anew on some divergent path. There are issues with children and houses and pets, but those things get negotiated by attorneys.

How can that happen for the U.S.? Who gets the kids? Who gets California, the Grand Canyon, or the Indy 500?

As long as K/Js rule each side, then it seems to me that we’re all living in a bad home with Dad beating Mom and Mom not picking up the socks (and vice versa). And I foresee it continuing that way.

What happened?

Our spokespersons (political and media) picked sides and became entrenched in their K/J view of right and wrong, leaving little to no opportunity for mutual benefits. They see more value in winning or proving themselves right than finding a common path.

If both sides could instead try an L/R approach toward some compromise, then I might feel more hopeful.

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