Troubling political times, stock market instability, and slow economic growth cause increasing concerns and fears within any established society. Uncompromising and polarizing views create a culture of indifference. Citizens grow tired of argumentative political discussions and seemingly endless barriers to progress. The result is an unclear vision for the future that becomes a breeding ground for radical ideas, larger-than-life personalities, and grandiose, if not offensive, statements. Inequality and discrimination fuel talking points that place blame and seek retribution.
It's September 14, 1930. The political climate of Germany in 1930 was not unlike the one facing America today. It was this environment that created a pathway for Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party as they began their campaign, believing they knew what German citizens wanted to hear. They used the economic crisis and uncertainty facing Germany’s citizens as an opportunity to change the political rhetoric. A brief two years earlier, these same views would have been ignored and discounted as unsustainable, but not anymore.
While the United States has always had two primary political parties, it seems they are further apart than ever before. Gone are the 1990s, when Congress focused less on maintaining political control then on accomplishing forward movement on behalf of its constituents. As Simon Sinek recounts in Leaders Eat Last, “efforts were made behind the scenes to allow for both parties to claim victories and appeal to their respective bases. When control was not the primary goal, things got accomplished and both parties were able to get their needs met by working together.”
We as a society have forgotten what it means to hold an elected position that represents the good of the people, not the good of one party over another. Politicians feed citizens’ insecurities instead of communicating a shared vision for the future. We have forgotten what it means to have opinions and ideals that take into consideration the opinions and ideals of others. We have allowed a political system that has been reduced to name-calling, bullying, and scare tactics to gain political advancement. We have made excuses for behavior that is considered intolerable in other circumstances.
As we continue on in this election year, we should be seeking a leader whose rhetoric is about preserving, restoring, and supporting our greatest resource for the right reasons. This is not some head-in-the-clouds kind of ideal, but one that listens to the needs of people and presents a shared vision for continued growth and progress that benefits everyone. It’s not about one political party over another and which one is more right. It’s about setting aside differences to come together. It’s focusing on making a difference not creating further barriers.
1930s Germany paved a dangerous path for Hitler and the Nazi Party. They preyed on the individual insecurities of its citizens. They used their political platform to misplace blame that resulted in a devastating loss of human life. They focused on the differences instead of equality. They focused on abstraction instead of inclusion. They focused on singular individuals instead of citizens as a whole. History tends to repeat itself, but it doesn’t have to, if we choose to learn the lessons of the past. German citizens probably never imagined the atrocities that were to come. The changes did not happen all at once. They occurred slowly, over time, as citizens became indifferent and complacent. Mostly, it happened when people stopped seeing others as people too.
We have an opportunity this election season, to carefully listen to the rhetoric, to understand the principles each candidate represents, and to make a decision not just for ourselves, but for society as a whole. Our power is in our voice. Our strength is in our diversity. Our future is dependent on caring for people.
“In a weak culture, we veer away from doing
‘the right thing’ in favor of doing
‘the thing that’s right for me’.”
~ Simon Sinek