Its been a difficult few weeks in American politics. Are you concerned that racism, hate, mendacity, and hyper-partisanship are dominating our national discourse?
As citizens we have more power to shape the national discourse than we might think. Here’s what you can do:
Recognize the patterns of hate and respond with Stories of Wisdom. Ask your elected representatives to avoid the former and encourage and support them when they too have the courage to speak of interdependence or to focus on the common good.
Call out distortion and deflection, and avoid falling into these habits yourself.
Rather than simply reacting to or throwing out a trigger word, ask for definitions, supply yours, and explore the differences.
Be willing to truly listen to your fellow citizens. Note that “[b]y listening attentively, we can take in the experiences of others without necessarily agreeing with what they are advocating.” (David Matthews, The Ecology of Democracy, (2018). Listening does help us to better understand each other.
Make the effort to think things through. Consume media that does more than excite and inflame. Look for sites and sources that confirm facts or provide context on the complex issues of the day. As Thomas Jefferson said “Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.”
Look for what is working and get involved in organizations that are trying to unite rather than divide our country. It’s not about Us v. Them. It’s about all of us, and what we might be as a country.
So reach out, talk, and commit to the good of your neighbors. We can do better.
Afro and White, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, our fates are bound together. We can run from each other but we cannot escape each other. We will only attain freedom if we learn to appreciate what is different and muster the courage to discover what is fundamentally the same. America’s diversity offers so much richness and opportunity. Take a chance, won’t you? Knock down the fences that divide. Tear apart the walls that imprison. Reach out, freedom lies just on the other side.
We should have liberty for all.
– Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, July 4, 1992.