Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Individuals Can Make a Difference in Politics

DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm so tired of politics, and I wonder if things will ever change. I got excited about the possibility of change when our current president was first elected, but the more I see, the less convinced I am that anything can happen.

Is it wrong for me to be a cynic? Is there anything I can do to help things along? Sometimes I think that being a citizen means nothing. -- Despondent, Atlanta

DEAR DESPONDENT: Our country is often called "the great experiment in democracy" because it is still a relatively young nation whose intentions, as stated in the Constitution, are lofty.

You are right to be frustrated by the current state of affairs, particularly with how ineffective our government seems to be. While it may seem idealistic to believe that change can occur, you must know that it can. Legislators, lobbyists, activists and concerned citizens are working hard to change things every day. Does it get messy? Yes. Every president in recent history has spoken of the challenges of moving legislation through Congress. Local officials have their complaints as well.

My recommendation is that you put your hat in the ring if you feel moved to try to make specific changes. The beauty of being an American is that you have the right to run for office, volunteer for a political campaign or start a nonprofit organization focused on an issue about which you are passionate. You have options.

Will it be easy? No. Is it worth it to do something rather than be sad or frustrated? Without question.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My best friend has been fighting (verbally) with her husband for as long as I can remember. The other day, she told me they are now talking about getting a divorce. I'm not at all surprised. I am a little concerned that it's just more talk. She wants to know my opinion. I don't want to give one, because whatever I say won't matter anyway.

How can I support her without getting in the middle of her marriage? Over the years I have listened or even changed the subject, but she is more insistent now. -- Reluctant, Chicago

DEAR RELUCTANT: Stick with your gut. You are not married to either of them, so you don't really know what will help them -- even though you are her best friend.

Resist the temptation to share your opinion. Instead, you can ask pointed questions that help your friend look objectively at her life, such as: Can you imagine your life in five years? Is your husband a part of it? What do you want for yourself in the future? What can you do to get to that place?

Envisioning the future you want is a way to figure out how you want to devote your time. If your friend is willing to do that exercise and possibly do it with her husband, she may be able to see her way to clarity.

Of course, seeking professional help is always wise in times of stress.