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Maybe This Is Our American Divide
I really don’t like the current American “we’re divided, we’re polarized” narrative for so many reasons, not least of which it largely isn’t true. To wit, 72% of us believe eliminating health disparities is a urgent or a high priority; 83% support requiring background checks for private and gun show sales; 93% of Americans believe it is important for our leaders to focus on things that bring people together and, actually, the list goes on. So I’m calling BS on the whole narrative or at least on the idea that we’re all divided all the time.
But be present, accept what is, I get it, divides exist: red-blue; liberal-conservative; rich-poor; white-non-white; elite-non-elite; capitalist-socialist; I don’t know. But is anyone who ascribes to this narrative believing that it’s getting better? Are we any less divided in these ways today than we were four years ago? If not, perhaps it’s because there is a more foundational division at play: the one between those of us who think in terms of ourselves and those of us who think in terms beyond ourselves.
In America today there are and have been those who of us who vote “single issue” and those of us who consider a range of issues when we vote. There are elected officials who make clear by their actions that they are in politics for their own personal gratification and there are elected officials who make clear by their actions that they are in politics for what they can do for others. There are Americans who don’t care about the suffering of others (and, more specifically, others who are not like them) and there are Americans who work tirelessly to assuage the suffering of others. There are those of us who want to wall ourselves off from others and those of us who value cultural diversity and prefer bridges and connections.
But that’s just me so back to you and how I might badger you because it’s my newsletter and you’re here for something.
Underneath these broad generalities, of course, are individual humans with various individual beliefs, conscious and not so conscious. You know if we are talking about beliefs, I am perking all the way up. And as someone who identifies with the think-beyond side of this divide, here are some beliefs I found undergirding this position:
American citizenship is a gift, not a right.
My American citizenship comes with responsibilities.
I cannot be at peace until we are all at peace.
No man (let’s actually say person) is an island.
We are all connected.
America has a unique and powerful role to play on the world stage.
But that’s just me so back to you and how I might badger you because it’s my newsletter and you’re here for something. First, for practice, whenever you feel like it, just listen to what beliefs sound like. They are declarative sentences. They are statements to which one can typically respond with a “true”or “false.” (“I-don’t-knows” count, too.) Next, ask your Self which side of this divide you are on. Now, follow that with looking for what beliefs you have that lie under your position. Maybe you share some of mine but, even better, maybe you have some different ones that you’ll share with all of us in the comments below. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Of course, conversing politically at the level of belief — particularly with those who are on other sides of any divide we might be on — is what conscious politics practitioners do so this practice will serve you in the immediate term. And changing beliefs is how we change experience. But there is more about this framing — that perhaps America is divided between those who think in terms of themselves and those who think beyond themselves — that has new consciousness written all over it.
To be sure, anything in the range of interconnectedness, bridge-building, coalition-building, diversity-cultivating is one hundred percent new-consciousness. It’s all embedded in the concept we belong to the planet, not the planet to us which says we humans have the same basic nature as Nature and interconnectedness is how Nature operates thus, it’s how we operate.
And if, indeed, there is a great divide that we would like to reduce or even eliminate, we have to think, talk, and act far beyond the divide. Ooh, ooh! Yes, Steven? Does that mean intention-setting? Why yes, yes it does. So get cranking on your version of what our world looks like when we are more united than divided. Intentions matter, people.
And let’s remember, also, as we approach our fellow humans on the other side of any divide, to be compassionate. If, like me, you see your Self firmly on the think-beyond side of this particular divide, realize that most of what fuels anyone on the other side includes having different information. We all believe what we believe based on the information we have so maybe they need some information you can provide. Psychologically, people who don’t see much beyond their own self-interests often live with a great deal of fear and insecurity. They don’t trust too many people. Realize the degree of vulnerability it would take for them to think about crossing this divide. As we invite them to do so, realize that changing beliefs can be hard so let’s make it as easy as we can.
By helping others to believe differently, we can make “connect to something greater than yourself” cool again and reduce this divide down to irrelevance.
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NOTE: I began and committed to this piece before the presidential election was called yesterday morning. The results of the election across the board has me processing a multitude of thoughts, feelings, opinions, and attitudes on a range of issues. No surprise. If there’s anything on your mind that you’d like to see addressed in these pages, lay it on me.