When you make your living through invitations to speak, talking politics in your newsletter is not usually a good idea. But not talking about politics when it is choking the air we breathe may be a worse idea.
Of all the phenomena and reactions since the results of the US presidential election there is one that has me most disturbed. It is the number of people who have told me they cannot speak to their families and friends who voted differently than they did, or whose family and friends are not speaking to them for the same reason.
We are in archetypal territory here. This is the Old Testament brothers
Jacob and Esau
, whose rivalry for dominion over their land caused decades of estrangement, and the near death of one or both in violent confrontation.
The story is laden with themes of the masculine and the feminine, of deceit and betrayal, of birthright and fitness to lead, of accepting outsiders into the lineage, of material expediency and spiritual values. The parallels in the story are both glaring and imperfect, but they are powerfully cautionary.
The redeeming act in this primal story, and the one I wish to lift up here, occurs when one of the brothers insists on reconciliation and the other relents and joins in the act of reconciling. In my reading, it is not important which one begins the reconciliation.
We live in a
. What does that mean? In human (as distinct from mathematical) terms it means that patterns at a small scale continuously repeat at larger and larger scales. This is known as "self sameness". An example would be democratic habits that were established at small town meetings in pre-revolutionary America scaling up to become the habits and norms at larger and larger levels of self-governance.
Like all models applied to human behavior this imperfectly describes reality, yet is useful in helping us understand what we are experiencing and what we might do next.
For the distraught people who have told me they cannot talk to their friends and family who voted differently: this is precisely what you must do. Conversations to understand each other at the smallest level are needed for productive conversations to occur at the larger national and global level. Please try.
Yes, I know all about how the self-reinforcing social media divide has resulted in vastly different and distorted conceptions of the world. Start at the smallest level. Be more committed to listening than to talking. I can almost promise that you will find common ground emerge from which healing can begin and from there find ways for going forward.