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.
Posted in democracy, dialogue, government, Dialogue, politics
Tagged communication, community, Dialogue, division, fear, hate, mendacity, peace, politics, questions, sharing, USA
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963
True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1958
During this last election cycle, the rhetoric form both political parties has reflected the patterns of hate. Although division, distrust, and rancor between political parties is not new, it is worsening. This trend is a threat to our ability to grow our economy, preserve our freedoms, and provide opportunities for all Americans to thrive.
We as citizens hold the power to stop the slide. If you are willing to change the way you talk and listen, and demand the same of both those who would seek to represent you, and of the media you consume, our country’s divides would begin to heal.
The legal system can force open doors and sometimes even knock down walls. But it cannot build bridges. That job belongs to you and me. 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, 1992
If you believe in the aphorism “united we stand, divided we fall,’ reach out and start a new conversation. Use dialogue not debate. Listen for and share the stories of wisdom that can illuminate our next steps.
At this time when so much of our politics is trying to manage this clash of cultures brought about by globalization and technology and migration, the role of stories to unify -as opposed to divide, to engage rather than to marginalize – is more important than ever. – President Barack Obama, 2017
Take a chance won’t you?
Posted in Dialogue
Tagged communication, community, democracy, divides, government, hate, healing, Martin Luther King Jr, partisan, peace, politics, stories of wisdom, storytelling
Last month I was sitting with friends and discussing recent events at the University of Missouri. One of those present – an African American – said with sadness “it’s getting to the point where I hope there isn’t another African-American president in my life-time. I don’t remember it ever being this bad.” Another member of the group replied: “Sometimes you have to lance an infection so it can heal. What first comes out is ugly but that’s what starts the healing.”
Since then I have been thinking about wound care, and what we as facilitators can learn from it.
First, like an infected wound, unresolved conflict festers. When lanced, or when the stitches previously put in place are pulled, there is often an explosion, and at least a quick leeching out, of the infectious agents and residue. Opening the wound allows this not just to be released; it allows the infectious agents to be examined and removed, and the infected site to be cleaned and treated.
The worst infections are healed through “open wound care.” This is a slow process, requiring constant care and vigilance, until the surrounding tissue begins to heal itself from the inside out. When that happens the tissue becomes lively and vibrant. Still check-ins are needed at regular intervals to prevent the infection from recurring.
Healing an infected wound takes considerable time, setbacks are not uncommon. Patience and perseverance are required.
Even when the wound seems to be healing well – or closes on the surface, pockets of infection may remain. Ongoing monitoring is still required, and use of the surrounding muscle may cause pain. There is a need to go slow, to remain vigilant, and to be patient.
We have a long history of hate. Dialogue can help us heal. Yet that dialogue needs to be ongoing, consciously worked at, not sporadic. Vigilant monitoring with a readiness to intervene when needed is required to sustain progress and restore us to to health. In this season of peace and hope it is worth remembering that we each have the power to speak up, to pursue dialogue with others, and to disturb the patterns of hate when we hear them. Working together we can make 2016 a better, healthier year.
“America’s diversity offers so much richness and opportunity. Take a chance won’t you? Knock down the fences which divide.” – Justice Thurgood Marshall
Posted in Communities In Conflict, democracy, dialogue, government, Dialogue, Working With Conflict
Tagged Conflict, Dialogue, hate, healing, patience, perseverance, vigilance
After the twin towers fell 13 years ago, my then 13 year old daughter struggled to understand the world she was growing into. Ultimately she wrote a poem. That poem began with a sense of helplessness:
I do not hold in my hand the power to change
what happened on September 11.
I cannot turn back the hands of time,
and stop the towers from falling,
or the people from dying.
I cannot stop
It ended though with hope. The final stanza read as follows:
Some people might say I don’t have the power
to do anything, but they are wrong.
I hold in my hand the power to make a difference.
I can love when others hate.
I can lend a helping hand when it is needed.
Even a small gesture can mean a lot to another.
I have the power to make a difference,
and I hold this power in my hands, heart and mind.
And she was right. We each have the power to fight hate, often in seemingly small ways, but ones that over time can have a collective impact. As individuals we can work to improve our skills for listening, understanding, and productive dialogue. As citizens we can recognize that too much partisanship is poisonous, and set boundaries both for ourselves and for our elected officials. When we see patterns of hate developing in our private and public communications, we can act to disrupt those and instead build narratives that strengthen our sense of community. By working together to understand our diverse experiences and perspectives, we can make wiser decisions.
Yes this is idealistic. We could instead give in to cynicism and despair, allowing the spores of injustice and hate to grow. Or we can hold onto our faith that the world can be a better place, and do what we can. It is not impossible for individuals and even nations to change, even though progress may be slow.
So persevere. Speak-up with courage and compassion, find and encourage others who seek a more peaceful world, forgive where you can, and extend a welcoming hand to those who are different from you. Dialogue can make a difference and we urge you to build dialogues where-ever you can.
Posted in democracy, dialogue, government, Dialogue, Working With Conflict
Tagged Dialogue, hate, love, partisan politics, peace, twin towers, wisdom, World Trade Center