By Ellis Cohen
These are difficult times for our country. We have an opportunity to really face underlying problems of inequity, but to ultimately succeed, we have to address the polarization in the country, and the associated righteousness and hostility.
Our notions of how our society should be structured are so different. At one end of the extreme is radical individualism: Live or die on your own; always be prepared to fight to protect yourself, your tribe, and your property. At the other end is radical communalism: We all must be responsible for one another, to ensure that everyone gets fair access to what they need, and to support those who are hurting or need a hand.
Small-government conservatives fight for liberty, while liberals fight for social justice, but both traditions are necessary for America to have liberty and justice for all. The question is whether we actually can find a way to pragmatically work together to find a balance—to try things out and thoughtfully examine what works for individuals, and the country as a whole, and adjust as we go.
As a start, we can learn to approach everyone with great respect, thoughtfulness, compassion, generosity, appreciation, acceptance, tolerance, kindness & humility; if we can listen to others without judgment, and without attempting to convince them that we are right; if we can realize that the aim of listening is to find connections and discover how we can work together to solve common problems, then we will have the best chance of creating a society that works.
The issue is that we not only disagree about how society should be structured, but we actually disagree about whether we should even try to work together. We live in a country poised between two stances: domination, where the aim is to project power in order to defeat or even annihilate our opponents, vs cooperation, where the aim is to find common ground, as a result of understanding our opponents real needs and why those needs matter to them.
Cooperation does not mean acquiescence, especially to those who bully and abuse, or who spread hate and foment fear and violence. Standing up against these dark forces requires that we take on the role of the mature warrior, to fight the good fight to make the world a better and more fulfilling place for this and future generations, as opposed to the shadow side of the warrior—the bully, who seeks domination, and derives joy from someone else’s pain.
This is a time when the dark forces are calling out ever more loudly to turn us all to the dark side, seducing us to unleash our shadow sides so they have unrestricted freedom to cause destruction. Perhaps this is part of the natural process of death and rebirth—in the name of Kali, drinker of blood, civilizations are destroyed, so that new civilizations can arise upon their ashes. Perhaps this is a time to dance our asses off while the planet self-destructs, or ride the party train to Armageddon like Slim Pickens rode that missile down in Dr. Strangelove.
Or maybe it’s time to unabashedly promote the simple fact that there’s more that unites us than divides us—that we are all human, perfect exactly as we are, yet deeply dysfunctional, all at the same time. Perhaps this is a time to watch this short but powerful Danish TV production, which had me in tears by the end of it, and has a message that can inspire us all.
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