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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 7/20/16

Left v. Right Pt 8

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For those on the left side of this great political and cultural divide, a failure to appreciate the foundation from which we derive our own policies leaves us adrift and too-often isolated from fellow citizens who seek ends not all that different from our own. The failure, inability, unwillingness--call the reasoning what you will--for those of us on the left to understand the emotional and psychological motivations of conservative principles and beliefs doesn't help. I'm as guilty as the next in choosing to mock first, but until we can get past that tendency with all of its justifications, the wider the divide becomes.

Needless to say, the right's equally [and from our vantage point, much more] egregious approach in assessing the left's principles and beliefs contributes just as much to the polarization. Certainly the presidential campaign and the GOP primary season provided ample evidence of at-best questionable behaviors and proposals. How to get past that?

It's surely the easier path for both sides--shooting fish in a barrel--but are the snark-driven "victories" all that meaningful? Shouldn't more of the adults in the room act like the adults in the room?

The task for those of us on the left is in part to better understand the traditions and significance of conservative thought that create the motivation for the right's "individuals-and-markets-first" approach to governing.

So too must we be both clearer about the motivations and values that drive our community-oriented philosophy, and more consistent in sharing those values. More information can only help lower the hyper-partisanship temperature, while diminishing both the knee-jerk inclinations and justifications for demonizing the left.

In order to provide more meaningful answers, we on the left have to demonstrate a willingness to at least consider the possibility that most of our fellow citizens on the right are not marching lockstep with the blowhard rantings of some of the more notorious voices on that side. That requires just a bit of effort to attain a broader understanding about how those on the right identify with those leaning in their same direction.

But if we can start to appreciate that the others (or at least most of them) most likely aren't hell-bent on destroying our side, but are in fact seeking mostly what we on the left are pursuing--albeit with different priorities owing to the inherent contrasts in how we think, perceive, believe, and feel--we might crack open a door or two. Conversations and cooperation remain options for all of us.

But we cannot do it alone, and so the question remains: will enough conservatives give more thought to the future if we continue to travel on our separate and highly partisan paths, or will meaningful dialogue begin taking place? There are many deeply invested in perpetuating the polarization and conflict in order to preserve cultural, economic, and psychological advantages and consistencies. The latter tend to have broad platforms, and have never been shy away using it to their fullest advantage.

What this opportunity and awareness does provide is an occasional chance to actually listen to the genuine motivations, values, and beliefs others bring to the conversation, rather than pigeon-hole them into pre-determined categories as directed by "leaders" whose motivations are at best suspect. That latter option--relied upon routinely--is an undertaking that offers little hope of meaningful dialogue and cooperative efforts to solve the challenges we now face.

With awareness, however, comes opportunity. We're now presented with new choices that have at least the potential to tone down the divisive rhetoric. That choice will also lead to a sounder appreciation for, and understanding of, the perspectives of those with whom we've been previously inclined to simply dismiss. Better outcomes for us all--while not assured--are much more likely than what present tactics offer.

Are we willing to insist on not just recognition of the efforts stemming from these certainly inconvenient truths about human nature and behavior, but the benefits and drawbacks as well? Can we? What happens if we don't? [Duly noted: easy to ask, not so much when it comes to answering.]

Reality can be postponed by ideology only for so long. Each day that slips into the past with no consensus and no legitimate, broad-based, collective, and cooperative efforts to begin shaping our future [with at least an acknowledgment of the challenges], is one less day all of us--even the most ardent ideologues--will have available to plan for, adapt to, or change what we will all be dealing with.

How shall we explain to our children our numbing apathy and total disregard for the facts--the ones that will have left them with far fewer resources to deal with the consequences of our indifference and ignorance?

Adapted from a blog post of mine

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Looking Left and Right: Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows I remain a firm believer in late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone's observation that "We all do better when we all do better." That objective might be worth pursuing (more...)

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