Saying we are in an era of discord is to state the obvious. There are great differences in how we think about politics, how to respond to the global pandemic, what entertainment is best or harmful, some wonder about the validity of science and how to care for the planet or how should we police ourselves…we could make a long list and wallow in despair and hopelessness; maybe there is another way?
There are countless surveys, polls, books, pundits, experts and elected leaders all vying for eyes, ears and a piece of ourselves on myriad media. There is a near constant drone of “news”, information and research binding us in a web, we largely create for ourselves when we turn on nearly any device.
What to do?
Not turning on is not an option for most of us nor can we can pretend it is not happening and fly away like Mary Poppins to another place or turn the world into ash like Darth Vader. Too many of us swing from being too strident to indifferent. Most of us are doing what we can to make sense of all the dissonance and confusion.
I am thinking a new movement of radicals who are interested in breaking with the status quo…we need to become radically moderate. What would happen if we took a step to the center and provided validation to our family, neighbors…strangers? I do not believe that people wake up in the morning determined to be ignorant or wicked. I am not suggesting that we let people off the hook from vile ideas and hateful beliefs but I am suggesting we try harder to understand how it is someone has come to their conclusions. You and I can still hold on to our beliefs and ideas…yet, we acknowledge that there are people likely on another end of the spectrum and many of them are our family members, neighbors and co-workers.
I do not think we are in these troubled times because of government or even capitalism, communism or any other “ism”. I believe we are experiencing this sometimes frightful moment of history because we have lost sight of our commonality on what the essence of the United States was founded…e pluribus Unum. We have become expert at recognizing difference and employing fragmentation at the expense of accepting diversity and of agreeing to disagree and find a middle ground. The United States was at its best when we created laws and regulations that “both” sides disliked. Winner takes all approaches have not worked.
Being a moderate in these time would be radical. Instead of retreating to our own tribes, teams, groups I suggest we need to courageously step into a space where sharing, talking, listening and the so called “art of compromise” is reintroduced in our society. We are collectively stuck by the choices we have made and continue to make. Let us not cast blame on others, let’s look for ways we can reach a hand out and acknowledge someone with different ideas. We do not have to agree with them but we must accept that they believe what they do.
Walt Whitman advised his acolyte Horace Traubel who was an early American socialist “to be radical…but not damn radical”, perhaps we should follow this guidance and be less certain and more inquisitive, less judgmental and more open minded?
Each of us can listen with more patience to our friends and neighbors when talking about public ideas, we can read and watch a greater variety of news and social media, we can call out people urging violence or extreme perspectives, we can vote for elected officials who promise to work with less partisanship. The truth is, none of can change society but we can change our own behaviors. Step up…be radically moderate for our children’s sake and your own.