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The Far Reaches of a Mindful State of Mind

The 2020 presidential debate was not a high moment for American politics. This article dissects the overarching failures that led to such a disturbing moment in American history.

By Hannah Simmonds | April 27th, 2021

The 2020 Presidential Debate was nothing short of disappointing. A screaming match between two of the, supposedly, most powerful politicians in America. Childish behaviour broadcasted on international television- but how could this whole situation be avoided?

The following quote by American psychologist George Kohlrieser is a concise yet broad explanation of the benefits of what he deems an important mentality; mindfulness. He said,

Mindfulness can create a foundation for emotional bonding that allows you to be fully present and authentic during dialogues or a discussion. A mindful approach to entering difficult conversations keeps both parties out of the heat of emotions and able to explore the needs, wants and interests on both sides. Judgement is suspended and, with a strong bond, the mind can focus on and look for the mutual benefit of the common goal (“George Kohlrieser” 2021)

In his quotation, George Kohlrieser promotes the enlightenment and authenticity that can be attained by embracing a mindful, judgment-free, yet equally emotionally sensitive perspective.

The strategies employed by the mindful approach lead to constructive discussions between parties, thus paving the way for progress. Kohlrieser is reasoning that the mindful approach is a good starting point for social progress. The western (particularly American) presidential debate is a demonstration of the mindful mindset; only if it is looked at in reverse.

Former presidential candidate Joe Biden is quoted saying, “... Folks, do you have any idea what this clown's [Trump] doing? I tell you what, he is not for anybody needing healthcare ” (“Will You Shut Up?” 2020). Former president Donald Trump said, “ [His administration’s] done a great job... Joe, you could never have done the job we've done. You don't have it in your blood "(“Will You Shut Up?” 2020). Finally, Biden says to Trump “Will you shut up, man? ” (“Will You Shut Up?” 2020). The U.S presidential debate was the antithesis of anything remotely mindful; it was a yelling match permeated by vindictiveness that eventually devolved into personal affronts. Instead of treating the debate as a dignified way to disagree and also find common ground, the candidates thoroughly rendered the debate a waste of time when they allowed their negative ideas of one another to cloud their judgement and capacity for understanding. No headway was made, and neither was a case for social improvement or reform even attempted. It is easy to imagine that perhaps if the two candidates had taken a mindful route of no prior judgement, or any excessive emotional investment, tangible progress might have been made.

Freedom of expression and authenticity are inherently linked to a mindful approach. Understanding and respecting one's own emotions, needs and wants makes it easier to sympathize with others, and welcome them to express their ideas as honestly and freely as you do your own. It is known that civil rights activist Malcolm X’s ideologies, principles and most importantly, methods, differed from Martin Luther King Jr. 's when it came to equality for black people in America and the world. This did not stop him from saying “We may disagree on methods [with Martin Luther King], but we don't have to argue all day on methods” (“Malcolm X” 2021). However, because Malcolm X understood and respected himself as a black man, he held fast to his ideas and had no fear of expressing and acting on them, no matter how jarring that might have been for other blacks, white moderates, white supremacists, or white sympathizers to the cause. He recognized the emotional weight of racism that King, his supporters, and all black Americans faced because it was his own, and so he could see the common goal they both shared. This allowed him to respectfully listen and consider King’s equally honest, fearless, authentic methods and teachings. In his explanation of mindfulness Kohlrieser highlights the benefits and growth in character that come with that way of thinking.

"Malcolm X." Wind and Fly LTD, 2021. 28 April 2021.

"George Kohlrieser." Wind and Fly LTD, 2021. 27 April 2021.

Reuters. “'Will You Shut Up, Man?' - Quotes From the First Trump-Biden Debate”. U.S News,

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