photo by Sheri Dixon

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What to Do With the Last Cookie

Let's talk stereotype. Wait. That's a word with many bad feelers attached to it so let's just use 'generalization' instead.

IN GENERAL, when I express frustration about a situation to a man, I won't even get to the end of the description of said situation before the man will interrupt me and say, "Have you tried ______?" or "Maybe you just need to __________."

Because that's what guys do. They fix shit. They get presented with a situation and their first (and sometimes only) response is to offer a way to FIX IT. A lot of times the problem with that is they don't really know the background behind the situation or the possible ramifications of various solutions because they're not focused on that. They live simple: Problem/Solution/Done.

IN GENERAL, when I express frustration about a situation to a woman, they listen. They nod. They may (depending on the woman) offer a sympathetic hug and a, "Oh, honey- that must be tough" or a glass of wine and a , "Wow- that's some bullSHIT right there!"

Because that's what women do. They listen. They know I just need to give a situation voice and let the words hang there in the light of day so I can see them for myself from all angles. They know I've already considered back stories, side stories and all possible ramifications of every single solution about a million times in my head so when I say

"I just don't know what to do about this"

What I'm really saying is, "I haven't decided which course of the twelve rolling around in my head I'm gonna take with this."

IN GENERAL, men are presented with a problem and that's what they focus on. The problem at hand, like it's an isolated event with no connection to anything else. They see the problem and they solve the problem in the most logical (and quick) manner and done. All that other stuff that may be affected by the solution will just have to shuffle out and fix itself.

IN GENERAL, women look at a problem as a symptom of other shit all around it. Deal with that other shit and the problem goes away.


Two kids are fighting over the last cookie. Mom comes in and asks each one how many cookies they've already each had. If the answer is lopsided, the one who's had less gets the cookie. If it's the same, there are several ways to go
-Mom can have one break the cookie and the other choose which half he/she wants
-Mom can point out some treat one has recently gotten that the other one didn't and counsel compassion and generosity
-Mom can pull the 'you're the older one and therefore have already eaten more cookies in total than your younger sibling, hand him the cookie' card
-Mom can remind one of the siblings that they don't even LIKE that kind of cookie and to stop being a dick and let their sibling have it
Mom looks at the background, context and future possible issues surrounding the current cookie battle and uses this as a teaching moment that will hopefully prevent it from happening again- the kids will have witnessed and now have tools to judge what to do in the future that is a fair solution to them both.

Two kids are fighting over the last cookie. Dad comes in, takes the cookie and eats it. Problem/Solution/Done.

While it might be tempting to say, "Dad's solution is clearly the best way to go" (especially if you're a dad who likes cookies), all that has taught the kids is to take their fight underground when dad's around. Which is kind of (?) a lesson in primitive teamwork, but doesn't really go very far to engender communication and empathy skills since 99.999999% of the time the bigger one will just eat the front of the little one...slowly...luxuriously...

So while dad is in the living room, washing his cookie down with a nice iced tea as he watches the news BECAUSE TO HIM THE ISSUE HAS DISAPPEARED WITH THE LAST CRUMB, the kids' goal is now to grow up to be big and strong as quickly as possible because the biggest most powerful person can take pretty much whatever they want for whatever reason, and that whoever you are, you might be the biggest one minute, but the next minute someone even BIGGER will come along so you'd better cram that cookie in your mouth quick before your mom hears your younger sibling holler or your dad comes and takes the cookie for himself. Self-preservation above all.

That's the difference (I think) between most MODERATE conservatives and most MODERATE liberals.

I say MODERATE because there are extremes on both sides that most EVERYONE agrees are not feasible or humane.

IN GENERAL, conservatives see a problem and look at how to deal with it. They focus on how to punish current behaviors that are unacceptable- financial, moral, ethical- to deter future wrongdoing. It's direct, it's logical, it's clean (at least on the surface). Punish the end result harshly enough and no one will do it. Easy.

Except punishments cost money. Lots of money. Liberals are loathe to spend money on punishments because

IN GENERAL, liberals see a problem and walk it back to all possible causes. They focus on eliminating the environment that causes unacceptable behavior- financial, moral, ethical- so people won't go down that path in the first place. It's involved, it's complicated, it's messy and seemingly impossible (at least on the surface). Eliminate the causes to a problem and the problem will no longer exist. Easy.

Except that sort of thing costs money. Lots of money. Conservatives are loathe to spend money on stuff they can't see the direct and immediate benefit of.

Here's the thing.

In the real world, we need both. We need people who are wired to focus on eliminating causes of problems, and we need people who are wired to focus on punishing those who persist on behaving badly even tho they have no reason to...because those people will always be around. They are a small minority, but they will always be around.

Because sometimes the kids just dig their heels in and refuse to cooperate regarding the last cookie and mom ends up giving it to dad anyway before sending them to their rooms for being uncooperative, hateful little shits.

MODERATE Conservatives and liberals are not mutually exclusive groups whose beliefs are 100% anathema to the other- we've been brainwashed to think that by the media and the extreme factions of both sides.

MOST conservatives don't want people dying for lack of health care or children going to bed hungry at night.

MOST liberals don't want a pony in every yard and mass murderers set free because 'they just had a bad day'.

MOST everyone loves America, and their families, and is compassionate, and knows money doesn't grow on trees.

We need to work off the strengths of each other instead of tearing each other apart for the differences.

We need to find ONE THING we can agree on and go from there.

We need to embrace the word 'compromise' because otherwise we're doomed, and as grownups we know no one gets their way ALL the time. We do know that, right? That just because someone has a different way of attaining the same solution you all want, doesn't make it WRONG, it's just DIFFERENT.

The end goal is attaining the America that CAN be- not a monument to any one religion or ideology, but 'with equality and justice for ALL' and 'Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness'. All that stuff. What a great idea. We should try it sometime.

Because right now, we're fighting over crumbs while someone else has all the cookies.

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