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Ann Marie Tate

We the People


"We, the People" are all the losers in this polarized land we live in. Anger and a sense of powerlessness lead to a feeling of resignation among many liberals.  Anger and a sense of persecution urge many conservatives to feel the need to be battle-ready.  It can be hard to see beyond our own perceived injustice.  Gandhi said "Truth resides in every human heart... no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of the truth." Failure to reach out and connect to the truth and validity underlying why others take their stances impedes our movement towards solution.  Not necessarily agreeing with, but honoring othersí pieces of the truth is a first step to creating not just red or blue power, but a trans-partisan Purple Power.  What would life beyond polarization look like and how would we feel living it? 

People would break away from an "us vs. them"; "good guy vs. bad guy"; "right vs. wrong"; "win vs. lose" mentality.  As connections are made and trust is built, we will want solutions that honor both our and their hopes and fears.  Our knowledge will become better-rounded as we evaluate our perspectives with those of others; we will refuse to insulate ourselves with only like-minded, self-reinforcing opinions.  Since the 1970s American participation in social, service, and civic activities has declined significantly, increasing our sense of individuality and reducing our understanding of societyís interconnectedness.  But in this new paradigm we will so desire inclusive solutions that, combined, we will organize.  We will choose politicians who support our creative, inclusive solutions.  We would claim the birthright of "We, the People", and take responsibility for the actions of our government.  Our government could not continually act against our collective interests unless we tacitly or actively allow it to do so. 

Conflict will not go away.  However, if people engage in conflict in a manner that is respectful, it helps others feel less defensive, less angry, and more open.  Instead of disintegrating into polarization, the makings of a solution will arise from the conflict.  Wonít we be relieved to find out that all those opponents we thought were absolute idiots are human beings worthy of being our brothers and sisters?  They are not soul-less bloodsuckers; they are not naively stupid.  Conflict will still evoke negative emotions but must be faced.  There are so many fears to move beyond:  fear of expressing our feelings and needs, fear of being taken advantage of, fear of being wrong, fear of losing, fear of rejection.  Finally we could alter the progression of "judge, blame, fight, then fight back or withdraw."  Great hope and satisfaction can result from constructive engagement.  Why wait in frustration for a great charismatic leader to come along and fix our problems?

On the U.S. dollar bill is an eagle.  We can use this as a symbol for America transcending polarization.  The left talon holds 13 arrows.  The right talon holds an olive branch.  We can honor Americans who need to feel secure with the strength of the United States.  We can honor Americans who need to feel secure in the virtuousness of the United States.  These interests are not mutually exclusive.  Indeed, it is at the intersection of U.S. interests and justice, that we are the country we aspire to be.  If you forsake the Left Talon and donít address the validity of their fears, you are rejecting pieces of the truth that are part of the solution.  For example:  fear of the inability to protect American citizens from harm, fear of losing a standard of living and not providing basic needs for family, fear of being vulnerable to injustice.  If you forsake the validity of the Right Talonís fear you are missing their parts of the solution.  For example:  fear that unjust behavior will result in the reduction of our ability to provide moral leadership in forging a better world, that our security may be compromised as others retaliate for unjust policies, lack of human security will negatively affect the worldís interconnected well-being,  creating ill-will versus cooperation from potential partners in trade and other negotiations.   Working in unison, "We, the People" first through caring about the needs of more than just those who agree with us, and then through the political process, have the potential to build a strong and just country.  Our efforts can create a nation worth emulating, balancing the desires for physical security, economic security, protection of freedoms, justice, and virtue.

Why is it that we cling to positions that are rooted in fear, while positions rooted in hope slip away so easily?  Release the fear, bring on the hope.  Usher in the New America: the strong, powerful, and just America "We, the People", all of us, want her to be.

Ann Marie Tate is a West Point graduate and conscientious objector who finds much to respect in both the military and peace communities.  She is confident that Americans from varying positions, exerting their efforts to connect to each otherís positions instead of convincing each other of the error of the otherís position, will create the solutions that develop the United States into a better country.

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