I like to consider myself open-minded and able to (mostly) objectively look at the various aspects of any situation. My parents used to remind me that there were three sides to every story…yours, mine and the whole truth. Each person sees reality through their individual lenses. As a therapist, I sometimes tell my clients that if I had lived their lives, had their experiences, viewed the world the way they did, I might think, feel and do the same things. Now, the question remains, do they want to continue down that path if it isn’t working for them?
The same could be said for the events in America since the election of 2016. Never in my history (I’m 60) have I witnessed such a tearing asunder of the fabric of the country and the dissolution of relationships over the polarity of politics. I am an outspoken journalist whose articles have made it abundantly clear on which side of the fence my feet are firmly planted. I say that I show up, stand up and speak out when I see injustice being done.
How do I define injustice? Anything that attempts to or takes away someone’s rights based on skin color, culture, gender, sexuality, age, country of origin, religion or ability. That pretty much refers to anyone who I perceive as being endangered by the current administration. Amazing to me that not everyone shares my concerns for their own personal reasons. (back to the therapeutic reference in the first paragraph) If someone is not in any of those threatened groups or doesn’t have a personal connection with someone who is, they may not feel as I do. When I speak out, I don’t name call or deride anyone. I do attempt to use reason and facts to change someone’s mind. It doesn’t always work since some people operate from emotions more than intellect and logic.
Over the past few months, I have engaged in dialog with Billy Park who is another Free Hugging soul friend. His organization in Massachusetts is called Hug It Out America. His goal is to bridge the ideological gap between people through hugs and open-hearted conversation. Not always easy when it seems like you are speaking an entirely different language. Billy decided to help me put my actions where my intention is by sending me a copy of the book Love Your Enemies by author, musician, and president of American Enterprise Institute Arthur C. Brooks. I agreed to read it and share my perspective.
A come clean: I was prepared not to like it and to find the author an overbearingly right wing Trump supporter or at least apologist. The reality is that I read it in three days, nodding and smiling and taking note of the overlap between Brooks’ view and mine. Did it convert me to conservatism? No way. Instead, it had me understand that the big problem in the country isn’t disagreement, but uncivil discord based on one word: CONTEMPT. When we hold someone (or a group of someones) in contempt, we dehumanize them and that makes it impossible to hear anything they say as valid (at least for them). It puts unbridgable distance between us.
We share an admiration for His Holiness the Dalai Lama who encourages ‘warm-heartedness’ when going head to head with someone of the polar opposite opinion. That gave him more street cred for me.
Early on in the book, Brooks refers to a monumental interaction between Hawk Newsome, founder of Black Lives Matter and Tommy Hodges who invites him to speak to an audience of avowed Trump supporters. I found my heart pounding as I read about the encounter, a bit fearful that he wouldn’t make it off the stage. Instead, he met them where they lived. He was able to meet on points of agreement; that they all love America and want it to be a better place. The content was less important than the context.
What I found particularly fascinating as the book unfolded was how Brooks was describing what I find most appalling about the ideology and action of the current holder of the Oval Office. How, I wondered, could anyone from any side of the chasm, miss that?
As I was turning the pages, I felt moved to contact Brooks and posted these blurbs on his Facebook page. “I received your book as a gift from a friend and am reading it now. I am a journalist and will be writing about it. I am a left of center, tree hugging, crunchy granola hippie who has definite opinions, but I don’t name call or hate anyone. I had the joy of interviewing the Dalai Lama when he came to Philadelphia in 2008, so we have him in common. I also do FREE HUGS on a planned and spontaneous basis. When I hug people, I don’t know who they voted for. I encourage kindness, compassion, and connection across all lines. Do I want people to care about the planet and all the people on it? Yes. Do I want people who seem to feel otherwise to change their perspective and actions? Yes. Do I do it as diplomatically as I can? Most of the time. A work in progress here. Thank you for writing the book. This 60-year-old appreciates the large type font. (: As I reached page 71 where you speak about qualities you say that people are attracted to when choosing a leader, I shook my head because our current one does not fall into those categories. Not healthy looking, not warm, not respectful. How did that outcome occur?”
and added ” Page 93…’coercive leadership’ style is directly reflective of our current administration. On to the next topic of dignity. Not all who voted him in are underemployed or lacking in dignity. They aligned with a bully.”
He encourages finding common ground with those with whom we are inclined to disagree. I have never felt moved to consider someone else’s perspective by having them disrespect me as a person. I have also never persuaded someone else to consider mine by putting them down.
The book is both scholarly and psychological, attempting to reach the intellect and the heart of the reader. Brooks was able to do so by tapping into his own life experiences and anecdotes shared by others. He is a researcher and storyteller. Take a look at your own biases and as best you can, attempt to go heart to heart and not just head to head with those who don’t share your beliefs.
What’s your take? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
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