A Point of View by Paul Montesino

The electoral mirror on our wall.
A Point of View © 1996
By Paul V. Montesino, PhD, MBA, CCP.

As we enter another political season with the usual views of our politicians, it is important not to lose what psychologists call “Gestalt,” the view of objects and situations, rather than multiple random pieces.

I offered an explanation once about how we attained and learned the ability to recognize our individual selves and that of others and our presence in the society and communities where we are born and function. Today I repeat that useful explanation in another context.

According to reputable and experienced biologists I’ve read, humanoids—yes, you and I are part of that group—originally lived existences in which we were not aware of ourselves, and had no idea what the words “I,” “you,” or “we” meant. Pronouns weren’t popular then. While that basic born-out philosophy was conflict-free, it actually offered us irresponsible lives without reward.

One day, however, old Mother Nature offered us a lesson that opened up unimaginable possibilities for us to be. It seems that, at one point in the lives of our ancestors, the heavens turned on their stormy water taps, and it rained for days and weeks creating countless pools of water. It may even have been what we now know in the holy books as the “universal flood,” but I can’t prove it.

Our ancestors, curious about the pools of water created and their mirror-like qualities that reflected the heavens, cautiously approached and looking into that natural mirror saw their own reflections for the first time in their lives. Reacting with obvious panic to such a discovery, many walked away to return only when other creatures approached the puddles with the same curiosity, but less fear. As our ancestors approached the puddles, they not only saw their reflections, but also those of their surrounding neighbors. At that moment, looking at the faces and reflections of those neighbors and their own, they realized and recognized who the obvious “I” should be, who “you,” and who “we” were in the image, bringing pronouns to life. The world would never be the same afterward. We need the presence of other members of our community to affirm our own identity.

I bring the mirror into the story because mirrors are not only instruments that allow us to see how we see ourselves or are but also how others look and are. Until we focus on our own lives, we cannot truly reflect or understand the lives of those who share time and space with us, however briefly.

I choose only one topic of controversy to help me understand it with my allegory of the mirror: immigration and immigrants. Across the country, during this new election cycle, we hear pleas from immigrants who want acceptance and threats from anti-immigrants to want to reject them. Politicians on both sides of the so-called aisle use immigrants “du jour” as the convenient “piñata” as election time approaches. We are looking at our reflections in the same mirror, but coming to different conclusions and images of ourselves and the others we see.

The U.S. has always been a vehicle fueled by immigration. It could have been the natives who crossed the Bering Strait thousands of years ago barely covered, the voluntary immigration of the 1600s on ships like the Mayflower or the Arbella, those from Europe who followed for the next few centuries, those from Africa who carried unwilling slaves, we and those who have arrived in flip-flops recently.

If you place a mirror over the faces of those newcomers, you have placed a mirror that reflects our nation. You will have observed the features, wrinkles, and colors of the faces reflected in that mirror. It doesn’t matter when the faces first appeared in that mirror. Reflections have no rights of age, maturity, quality, or watch. Trying to assess the sequence of arrivals is wasteful. When we promise that we are “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” we are speaking not only of the whole mirror but also of all its reflections.

But be careful. Parabolic mirrors appear in solar cookers to focus the sun’s rays and in car headlights to create beams of light from a single globe of light. In amusement parks we can find mirrors made with a combination of concave and convex glass. They can produce funny results as the body image appears distorted! We look fatter or thinner, taller, or shorter.

We have placed immense pride and value on images that reflect how high or how far we have moved. It takes generations to grow and thrive, but in most cases, we just want to see the images of our successful lives, not the challenging work we or our ancestors had to endure to achieve that success. And the same goes for everyone in that mirror. This brings me finally to the end of this long commentary: Accept your image remembering that it is only the product of a moment, a point, not a line. No one in the world had the opportunity to choose where to be born. As far as we were concerned, our wills had nothing to do with that decision. Avoid comparing yourself unfairly to the famous saying “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the most beautiful of them all?” There is none more beautiful. Before you leave, shake hands with those who share the mirror with you. The mirror can respond that we are all righteous. And don’t forget to take a selfie in the process.

Mirrors have no past and no future. If there’s one thing that’s missing from all mirrors, it’s memory. But you may remember my advice.

And that’s my point of view today. So Long.

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