Review of Splitting America: How Politicians, Super PACS and the News Media Mirror High Conflict Divorce (Authors Bill Eddy and Don Saposnek)
Saposnek and Eddy offer an interesting and insightful perspective of the current American political landscape. They each bring their expertise from the fields of psychology and law through the filter of their role as mediators of child custody and divorce. This book offers a highly descriptive explanation of conflict easily understood on the micro level of the dynamic between divorcing couples, which is then transposed onto the macro level of our two major political parties that are unable to resolve conflict. The authors highlight how this has resulted in the devastating impact of polarized and paralyzed governance of our democratic republic.
When the political fringe elements become strong enough to control a major party, there can be little civil discourse or compromise. Such behavior is then both reported endlessly and mirrored by the news media, which becomes mere entertainment for the purpose of ratings.
The authors of this book offer a solution through civil discourse, which would most likely work for some folks who care about one another but have differing political views. Such folks would have to start with the premise that their relationship matters and they are willing to figure out how both views can be negotiated through compromise. That is, “I don’t get everything I want and you don’t get everything you want, but we can live with the result of our solution if we want to move forward, since our relationship is far more important than our differing views.” The authors consider this perspective as a “both/and” solution; your view and my view can both live together in our relationship.
The problem is that the current political environment does not offer the “both/and” option. The current political dance is based on an “either/or” consciousness. Such a concept has the premise that there is not enough room on this planet for both of our values to be in our culture simultaneously. It must be my way, and we will be missing you when we are running the show.
The authors describe a High Conflict Person (HCP) as one person in a divorce who destabilizes the system, even if the other person does not want to fight. The HCP turns it into an ever escalating fight through the courts, as a result of that individual’s behaviors and/or possible mental health issues which impede the ability to compromise. Such a person sees compromise as a sacrifice that is intolerable and unacceptable, because that would be a surrender of his or her values, which are non-negotiable.
Based on a unique perspective of divorce and child custody disputes, Eddy and Saposnek generate the opportunity for civil discourse of the political chaos we are currently experiencing. And, perhaps, that is sufficient among friends who want to have a very interesting discussion. But, until we elect more mature individuals who actually live and think in the 21st century, we, as a culture, will continue to see the same trauma that is experienced by families going through a high conflict divorce.
First published in the Mediation Quarterly, Vol. 17, Number 3 (Spring 2000)The importance of apology as the acknowledgement of injury is familiar to some forms of mediation, including victim-offender mediation,...By Carl Schneider