I want my freedom. I choose for myself. I care about me, first. We have devolved into a toxic it’s all about me no matter what environment. However, is it possible differences, divisions, racism, and inequality, worsened by a pandemic, can lead us into reconciliation?
Yes. I believe so. I see it. Perhaps in my lifetime, but not probable. We should move towards it anyway.
As bad as they are, our current crises may offer us a way out. Studies have shown that chronic, divisive patterns like ours often become more susceptible to change after major disruptions to the status quo, similar to what we are experiencing today.
So, start with yourself. Go within. Find the peace you seek. As many of you know, I am a follower of the Buddhist monk Thich Nyat Hahn. Any of his books will offer you tools for presence living. Presence is a big thing because it brings you peace regardless of what’s swirling around you at any time. With over 100 published works, you can’t run out of his teachings. Work within, then your home, family, pets, friends, collegues. Like the stone tossed into the pond, become to stone that sends out ripples of compassion, love, and kindness to yourself and all that grace your presence.
In our communities, too, our first order of business should be to locate what is already working within these local areas and build on it. This is based on research which finds that change-resistant problems are often most responsive to positive deviance, existing remedies that have arisen and proven useful and sustainable within the context of the problem. In other words, bottom up solutions work.
Fortunately, today there are thousands of bridge-building groups across our country that fit this bill and offer a sense of a way forward. Many are focused on promoting and facilitating community dialogues across the red-blue divide. Others work in different sectors, like journalism, education, technology and health care, to bring interested parties together across ideological divides in service of promoting progress through negotiation and compromise. These groups represent the immune system of our communities actively fighting against the pathologies of hate and vilification and working tirelessly to grow and mobilize the moderate middle. We should each find one and join with them in common cause.
As Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us over 50 years ago, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time.”
If America is to recover from this descent into toxic division, we must act now.