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Left v. Right Pt 6

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October Sky, Good Harbor Beach MA
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If our collective future--the one we intend to pass on to our children and for their benefit--still matters, then we have a duty to do what we can to make it a better and brighter one than the future one in which inequality, conflict, knee-jerk dismissal of inconvenient facts, and the many damaging components of intense polarization will create instead.

Shouldn't the outcomes matter more than they seem to?

What message can we convey to those paying too little attention to the consequences of the messages and pseudo-policies being offered by Donald Trump and his cohorts should they actually become our reality? It's all fine and well for his followers to bask in their new-found political power--tweaking and exasperating the Establishment as they are--but the faux assurances Trump is offering them now will soon collide with reality, which remains singularly unimpressed with nonsense.

We're going to have to find ways to cooperate and compromise in order to deal with the realities of our economy, culture, climate, and energy supply. Tough-guy posturing works well in spaghetti westerns, but here on Planet Earth ... not so much. Recognition of that truth sooner rather than later would be best for all of us.

We're all too focused on winning each skirmish, no matter how foolish or irrelevant each tends to be. Ceding ground, or giving respectful consideration to contrasting interests and expectations, are now unacceptable approaches to problem-solving. We waste far too much effort and energy ensuring that ideological standards are constantly met, substantiated, and solidified, ignoring the bigger picture.

The important answers to What Happens Then? are rarely considered. Is that consideration worth at least a moment's pause?

Just allowing ourselves on occasion to engage in adult, respectful, substantive conversations with others offering contrary viewpoints, values, and beliefs is a first small step to bridge the ever-widening gap between the Left and the Right. (Easier said than done, of course!) Doing more of the same will result in more of the same. Is that consideration also worth at least a moment's pause?

The spirit of compromise has been sapped from politics. Each individual section of each state's honeycomb is less aware of the struggles or frustrations felt by communities living just across the highway. Politicians, in turn, represent constituents less interested in negotiation, and more suspicious of those who live in increasingly alien pockets nearby. Leaders willing to strike a compromise are accused of apostasy, rather than lauded as keepers of the peace. In sum, the transformation of American community has robbed each state's politics of a key element of the American community Tocqueville described in the 1830s: an appreciation "of the value of shared sacrifice".
Absent a connection to those living in other segments of the honeycomb, fewer voters are willing to stomach political compromise. And public servants, aware of the vitriol in the electorate, will be more tempted, time and again, to obey the absolute marching orders they receive at the ballot box.

If the uncompromising ground rules are to extend absolutely no compromises under any circumstances, what should anyone expect but more conflict! Should that be the goal in this increasingly complex 21st-century society? How long should we wait before realizing that the other side will not give in if our battles are waged solely about ideological principles rather than what's best for us all today and tomorrow? [Given how easily Trump swings away from standard conservative ideology in favor of his narcissistic demagoguery, I'm not sure we are fighting ideological battles at this point!]

[T]he cultural gulf has rarely been as deep or as wide. My view on this is that our division is not really about politics or even ideology. Ideology is an often ill-fitting misnomer for something much more powerful -- deep cultural alienation between the two parts of America. That alienation, in my view, is at its core the same alienation we are seeing in countries as diverse as Turkey and Egypt and Iran and Israel. It's about the response to modernity -- a choice between fear/rejection and relish/adoption. It's between a red world and a blue world. Or rather an increasingly blue world in deadly conflict between an increasingly red one....
The real question, however, is how societies can retain their coherence and unity when they are caught between the reassuring certainties of fundamentalism and the exhilarating disorientation of modernity. The worldviews are from such different places -- and are now penetrating cultures which, before the globalization of information, were able to keep them at bay.... If you go from the central cities of these countries and venture further and further into the rural heartlands, you will find not only that the blue parts of these countries are getting bluer, but that, in response, many of the red parts are getting redder. Soon, both parties create a different set of facts, as well as beliefs, about their world. Until they are barely able to communicate with each other at all.

Is that acceptable? Can we begin to appreciate where that path will lead us?

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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