I find it ironic that the week of January 19 to 25 is called Hunt for Happiness Week. Who, here in the United States, is hunting for happiness when we’re all embroiled in our current political situation on one side or the other? How can people be happy when we just experienced an insurrection at the Capitol? And as I am writing this in advance of the inauguration, who knows what might have happened between now and the publishing of this post.

Much of the country looks forward to Joe Biden being sworn in as President while millions believe Biden stole the election. No matter which side you fall on, are you finding it challenging to be happy given the current situation? Most people I’ve spoken to say they are. 

Personally, I have been able to maintain happiness using the concepts of Mental Freedom:

First, I focus on my responsibility. What am I responsible for in the insurrection? My answer is nothing. I didn’t plan it, participate in it or promulgate information that would lead to it. I have no responsibility in this situation.

Second, am I response-able? I believe we all are response-able, meaning we can form a response. We can respond in a way that helps, hinders or has no effect on the situation. Whether your response will help or hinder the situation has to do with your perspective. Both sides believe they possess the truth while villainizing the other side. I choose not to respond in that way. 

Instead, in my hunt for happiness, I try to understand the perspective of the other side. When BLM protesters were active in great numbers, I worked to understand their perspective. As a white female, I needed to do some work to educate myself in their plight since, in my privilege, I couldn’t initially see it. After researching and learning, I understand their protests; I have compassion for their frustration and feelings of helplessness. I am on their side and will forever be an ally.

I am currently faced with another set of demonstrators who turned violent at our nation’s Capitol and I find I don’t agree with them. I think they are wrong, or at the very least, misguided, but I don’t want to only follow my advice when it’s easy, as with BLM. I want to be consistent as a person who works to understand.

However, I asked myself, how would I feel and how would I behave if I believed the things the people at the Capitol believe? They believe there was widespread fraud and corruption in the 2020 election. They believe the Democrats stole the election and, therefore, are feeling disenfranchised. They have put their leader, Donald Trump, on a pedestal and have doubled down so hard on his merits, it will be practically impossible for them to see disparaging about him. Any attempts to explain the other side is met with blind, unwavering adherence to an alternate reality they have been spoon-fed and believe. If I were living in that alternate reality, I would be feeling the same frustration, anger and resentment.

I don’t condone the violence, but I understand the frustration. I do not want to judge all the people who support and believe in Donald Trump simply because they do not believe the things I believe. They have media, namely OAN, Epoch Times and Parlor, that feeds them contradictory information that they are choosing to believe instead of the information we get from “mainstream” media. You can confront them with the truth as you see it; they think you are being misled by “the deep state.” You cannot reason with your logic because they see your logic as flawed. Any evidence that might contradict conspiracy-thinking is simply further proof that conspiracy is everywhere. 

As I hunt for my own happiness, I am choosing to be response-able to do my best to understand their perspective and to be compassionate about their corresponding feelings. I do not condone the actions of violent insurrectionists. Violence is not a good answer, no matter what side you’re on, and it must be meet with consequences to ensure safety for all. Instead, I am doing my best to understand the other side and do what I can to find a bridge to reconciliation. 

To that end, I am looking for understanding and areas of agreement. I can find those things with the people I talk with. We must get back to seeing each other as friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. We do not have to be enemies. If we want to be “the great United States of America,” we must learn to stand shoulder to shoulder and look into our future together instead of toe-to-toe in a battle for righteous superiority. 

Hunt for your happiness by doing what you believe to be right, accept those who believe differently, hold accountable those who break laws with violence and, always, survey the landscape for the things you can be grateful for. Choose happiness over pain, strife and anger every time.

I’d like to leave you with a quote I found on Facebook, origin unknown: Be careful not to dehumanize those you disagree with. In our self-righteousness, we can become the very things we criticize in others and not even know it. Be kind.

And I would add: be happy.

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