Laura Bush has a new book out, Spoken From the Heart and she reveals herself to be more complex than we observed when she lived at the White House. She appears as a passionate advocate for a number of causes, including literacy, libraries, eliminating AIDS in Africa. As well she speaks her mind in support of gay marriage and abortion. The book also reveals she was able to influence her husband George W. Bush on certain issues – for example, not making gay marriage a significant issue in the election. And to the surprise of some reviewers she loves her husband.
I haven't read the book, but the reviews and interviews, remind me how important it is to preserve our humanity when we are lobbying for change. And to not make assumptions. Husbands and wives of political leaders love their partners as much as we love ours. Personal attacks against a political leader hurts their family. And vilification doesn't make it easier for a partner to use their influence to quietly advocate on certain issues.
This is not a post defending George W. Bush. Nor am I ignoring her loyalty to her husband. However, like Laura Bush, like all of us, change making is complex.
That Laura Bush loves her husband is no surprise. That she cares deeply about many of the issues we do, isn't a surprise either. What is surprising, is how successfully we manage to demonize political leaders and their supporters that we disagree with. And how easily we dismiss the flaws of those who agree with us. And so we continue to talk past each other, on complex challenges like climate change, poverty, maternal health instead of searching for common ground. Why should I talk to them – everyone knows they've got a hidden agenda? Why should I listen to them, everyone knows they can't be trusted?
Complex challenges will only be solved by all sides, not by one side. It is possible, indeed necessary, for solution based advocates to vigorously present our views, while maintaining an open heart toward the other and without becoming petty, righteous or malicious. Who knows it might encourage our politicians to follow suit.