Listen to Our Better Angels: In This Hour of Need
Abraham Lincoln was a guiding light for our country during America’s darkest days. The fabric of our precious country torn to shreds as brother fought brother and the South burned. How to turn back from the abyss and heal our still-young republic?
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” President Abraham Lincoln
Today — while we are not engaged in hand to hand combat in our cities and towns, we rage at each other via social media. Shouting click-bait opinions and generating ad dollars on Cable TV and Talk Radio. We see people engaged in and suffering from character assassination “because this single issue or cause — this election — this Supreme Court seat — is SO IMPORTANT”. We must destroy our opponent, or all is lost.
The middle of the country watches in disbelief while the talking heads and Twitter Monsters rain down ruin upon each other — and we all must wonder — don’t they see the destruction in their wake?
Jonah Goldberg recently wrote about how to determine if your thinking has become tribal. Here’s the 3 part test:
“There are three attitudes or assumptions common to all of these forms of categorical thinking:
1) My team, my tribe, my people are good; our story is true, our grievances are righteous, our agenda is correct, and our means for achieving it are justified.
2) Meanwhile, your team, your tribe, your people are the opposite of these good things; you’re bad, your story is false, your grievances are pathetic, your agenda is wrong, and your means are illegitimate.
3) Any allegedly neutral rule is an unfair impediment to what “we” want to do and often a barely disguised tool of the enemy to prevent good things from happening.
Jonah writes “The framers of the Constitution understood better than most Americans today that this kind of thinking is natural to humans. Wherever people find common interest they will band together — or try to — to defend their shared self-interest.” Jonah Goldberg, Townhall.com
We can change our thinking, then change our speech, and make a middle way. It may take a generation. Let’s start now.
A grass roots movement is underway to call a halt to all the hollering. I am pleased to be doing my part — as you read this — consider whether you too may have a part to play. The old phrase comes to mind — be part of the problem or part of the solution. This solution is working for me — and maybe it could work for you too.
My first ever Red / Blue workshop in September 2018 — for more than 7 hours! Our event in Austin, Texas was one of 12 that day in the country. We engaged in structured, reasoned dialogue and sought to understand — and to be understood. Lots of myths about “the other side’s views” were exploded that day.
Our ideas about how to solve the nation’s problems differed greatly. Surprisingly, we had a lot of agreement about what the major problems were — just differences of opinion regarding just and viable solutions. Absent was bigotry, racism, hatred, rancor. Instead humility, sincere fellow citizens listened, spoke calmly and learned from one another.
Better Angels does not seek to change minds on the political topics of the day. Civic discourse is the goal — and it’s being achieved in workshops across the country — hundreds so far! Just imagine, no fights at Thanksgiving this year!
What to do? Police your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Let go of the shaming, name-calling and righteous anger and “gotcha!” comebacks that have embroiled us all. Simply delete.
Then please visit www.Better-Angels.org and attend a meeting as an observer or a participant in your neck of the woods. Consider offering your talents as a Moderator. We are better than this. We can come together again as one nation. And while we won’t always agree, we can mend the torn fabric of our now divided communities and actively choose to be civil neighbors and good citizens.