by Greg Bourne
Published here on Sept. 17, 2022
Difficult times require difficult choices. To the benefit of our cherished democratic republic then, what kind of a response is required for these times — living through a pandemic, economic distress, political turmoil, racial reckoning and public confusion about what is true, all occurring simultaneously and interactively?
While most people seem to be filtering all this through a political lens, politics is not the answer. It goes deeper, beyond policies and political rhetoric. The answer is found in our personal responses, which in truth form the backbone of any free society. It builds on a set of values which transcend (but should underlie) politics, values which reinforce the dignity and well-being of one another. That is what we call a social contract – the heart of American democracy by the way – where we look out for one another, and seek what is in the common good.
We are not always going to see eye-to-eye or agree on the solution to specific issues or concerns. But when we do not agree, there must be an effort to understand the other, identify what we have in common, identify what is the common good, and work respectfully through our differences towards a solution that can be imagined by all. As we work through areas of disagreement, we do so from the starting point that there is a mutual concern for one another – if for no other reason that the alternative will most certainly erode our social contract with one another, and the health of our society.
What values, then, must we consider? Start with the many values to which most aspire. To be respected. To be heard. To be given a fair chance. Simply said, supported in some form by nearly every religious tradition, to treat others as we wish to be treated. Compassion, empathy, understanding, forgiveness, some degree of grace and yes, dare we say, love – a word we typically shy away from in the public square. (Not to be confused with some sentimental notion of love that accepts or overlooks evil and tolerates anything.)
History shows that hate and violence never win in the end. They result in more hate and more violence which lead to ruin, or no one left standing. Love requires standing firm against hate and violence. Love also leads to concern for the other, those who look different from us, those who have a different ethnic or cultural background, those with a different belief system, those who may even be considered “the enemy.” We’ve seen up close the results of hate, discord and violence. We must choose the better path – and the first step begins with each of us making that choice.
“…..hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love.” Martin Luther King, 1967