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.