Ward Hauenstein: Guest opinion | AspenTimes.com

Ward Hauenstein: Guest opinion

Ward Hauenstein
Special to The Aspen TImes
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Recent polls show that 8 to 10 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the job Congress is doing. By comparison, 31 percent of Americans have a favorable view of socialism.

As we enter the home stretch of the election cycle, let’s take a closer look at what drives us to decide how to vote. The lower brain responds to fear and hate. The higher brain processes data and reaches conclusions based on reason and facts. Too often we see tactics that attack people who express divergent views. This behavior appeals to our fears and hatred.

A person is cast as something threatening to our community, someone who does not care for the values we hold dear. Another employed tactic is to associate a divergent view with a shadowy, undefined group we should fear. After the character attack is complete, we are expected to divert our attention from the valid concerns of the issue and vote as a reaction to the person. We are expected to vote for issue “A” because someone opposing issue “A” is characterized as contrary to our values.

This is like a sleight-of-hand trick. It diverts attention from the issue and focuses on an artificial creation of a person. This is an appeal to our lower-brain functions.

The challenges we face as a community, a country and a planet are too great to deal with from our lower brain. Fear and hatred need to be transcended. We need to analyze issues by looking at the presented facts and valid arguments. Presented facts are not always as they seem to be. Valid arguments can be made for both sides of issues.

I appeal to all of us to question facts. What evidence are the “facts” based on? Are they valid? Do they pass the B.S. test? We have to weigh the valid arguments. There are no easy answers. We need to use our higher-brain functions to process all the information.

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I would rather start from a belief that all parties have the best interests of your community as a motivation. I want to identify shared beliefs and values held by antagonists. I want to identify what the differences are. I want to see if compromises can be made to arrive at an acceptable position that removes differences.

If there are points that are not negotiable, then what are they, and what are the strongest arguments that justify these positions? I want to cast my vote after analyzing rational, reasoned and respectful expression of issues.

I ask all to disregard appeals to our lower brains when we decide how to vote. I think Americans are tired of the politicians who seek to reduce issues to appeal to the lower-brain functions. Running our political institutions on hate and fear has rendered them useless, ineffectual and held in the lowest esteem in history.

The politics of polarization do not work. The challenges we face do not have black-and-white solutions. The global “we” needs to embrace divergent views. We need to find the value in what others think. We need to find full-color solutions and not accept black-and-white choices.

One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. We need a change, or we are doomed to failure. We cannot fail.

The one issue I am most familiar with is hydroelectric. My involvement in this issue this past winter was as much a protest against the process as an opposition to the project. I felt then and continue to believe that there are three aspects of the project that will determine how individuals cast their votes. They are: process, finances and stream ecology.

My actions, motivated by the process the city has followed, were successful in bringing the hydro project into focus. I, however, feel that to vote for or against hydro as a protest are insufficient grounds.

That leaves two big aspects to consider when we vote on this ballot issue. I have read arguments on both sides of stream ecology and remain concerned and unconvinced that the hydro project will kill the creeks or the city’s efforts will protect them. The financial arguments need to be thoughtfully considered by all.

Do all parties in the hydro debate believe in human-caused climate change? Is there a minimum stream flow for Castle and Maroon creeks that is acceptable to all sides? Should the hydroplant be built regardless of the cost? Is there a maximum cost that should not be exceeded? I ask all parties to publicly answer these questions.

As we cast our votes, what we base our decisions on is a private matter. Our votes are cast with the belief and assurances that nobody knows, nor can discern how we vote. Nobody needs fear retribution for exercising our right to vote. What factors determine how we vote are our own business.

I hope that the other two issues on the ballot are discussed in public with full respect for all involved and with open minds. The one given, that I hope we can all agree on, is that everyone who feels passionate either way on these issues share a love of our community. Let us all process through the issues using our higher-brain functions and reject appeals to fear and hate.