There seems no escape from the deep divides between urban/rural, republican/democrat, left/right and the radically different orientations they take with further fracturing issues such as immigration, gender identity, public education, and health care. Even more, the most articulate about their positions demand loyalty, supress reasoned discourse, discourage further learning and expect any additional evidence to support their pre-determined positions.
When civic, religious, business and governmental leaders embody these divisions, culture wars can become physical wars. I am old enough to remember the burning cities of the 1960s and hope never to see such a thing again--not because the disenfrachised are corralled and cannot assert their desires, but because we have become more aware, more just, more considerate and more neighborly.
I am a bible reader and recently came across something God said to the prophet Ezekiel--that he (God) was against the shepherds, meaning that the leaders of the people who were supposed to be shepherds of the sheep had actually become the chief predators. The divine word here was that God would effect a rescue of the people from their leaders. What does that say about a culture where its leaders are selfish predators rather than champions of the people? Are we becoming such a culture? Are we going even further and becoming citizen-predators of each other?
This past week's Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling and the absolute vitriol that results is a case and point. I bore witness to a great number of family and friends who either crowed or lashed out--claiming to be on God's side and demanding the right to be vindicated against the forces of darkness amassed against them--regardless of what side of the issues they embrace. More of this is coming with every subsequent law that is passed or regulation enacted.
Overwhelmed by such bullying anger I found myself reviewing the principles that guide how I want to thoughtfully respond to the important issues of the day, just in case someone shoves me to the wall (verbally or otherwise) and demands my opinion.
Yes, it happens! And increasingly so!
I find I have three choices in such an instance. I can lash out and fight in order to gain room to maneuver. I can pee my pants and cower in front of the bluster. Or, I can be true to myself and be thoughtful, even if the shouting increases and my voice gets drowned out. Once the heat passes, someone has to be sane and ready to build a new coalition that champions people.
I offer these principles as an invitation for you to surface your own and with them hope they will lead you to friendlier, more thoughtful and creative discourse rather than shouting, breast-thumping, and community destroying, spittle-dribbling invective. I intend to keep applying these to the way I operate in business, family, community and as a global citizen.
1. We must do something. Even doing nothing is doing something. Saying this, I also expect to be suprised if goodness or truth exists in a pure form. Whenever someone points to their version of utopia, they ignore the fact that a fair bit of money is required to prop utopia up. One person's utopia is someone else's getting left out, or worse, harmed by its making. Leaders who are champions of their people know that their responsiblity is a crucible and that they must be guided to protect the most exposed, fragile and vulnerable, whatever else they might do. They will never get it perfectly right, but they must do something. Mourning over what remains broken, they must keep gluing Humpty Dumpty back together.
2. Whatever we do must be done sustainably. When we overconsume a resource we add to the complications subsequent leaders must manage in the world our children will inherit. The question about sustainability is one I intend to keep raising because the only relevant responses to it require thought rather than a louder volume of shouting.
3. Enemies surround each human for the mere fact they draw breath. Most of the reasons we have an enemy are due to attributes or circumstances beyond an individual's control, and are items that cannot be changed. The instruction to love my enemy, an instruction I am pledged to follow, is all the more profound then, so is a commitment to try to transcend these labels and aspects of identity that drive so much enmity and victimization. Going through life I will make enemies. It cannot be helped. The goal is to make an even greater number of friends. That goal is within my power.
4. Principles 1 & 2 (see above) need to be advanced together, which lessens the advance of principle 3. Principle 3 is always moving forward, but so can the hope that an even greater number of poeple will enter into personal transformation that creates the goods and services this world needs, that loves neighbor, binds wounds, bridges political and cultural divides and bears witness to peace.