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A Progressive Honoring Conservative Values

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Some readers who lean towards the right-wing side of the political spectrum have urged me to do a systematic critique of left-wing shortcomings as part of activating a more sacred political vision for America. Truth, after all, rarely lies entirely on one side of any position or argument. They say my primary alignment with progressive values and candidates, even while respecting the importance of conservative values, makes it harder for what I'm saying to reach into the hearts of mainstream folks who might otherwise be responsive.

I respect this opinion. And I also see that there's a tightrope to walk between being true to my more radical nature and writing in a way that can incorporate the views of others in a more integrative, inclusive whole. My predilection is towards change - the more accelerated the better. I'm an evolution junkie, eager for the next frontier, innovation, or vision. I love pushing the envelope of experimentation. I read history in a dutiful rather than nostalgic fashion. I'm not the kind of person who thumbs through photo albums or reminisces about the past.

And yet, I've also become aware that if I simply give free rein to my thirst for the new, I undermine my ability to create enduring structures. Manifesting something requires a certain wariness about change, a suspicion of the newest idea, and a skepticism about the value of the latest vision. It also requires commitment and focus over the long-term. Conservative values often breed better businesspeople for this reason. There's a greater loyalty to the past and discernment about what new ideas have value. This translates into more attention to detail, greater commitment to staying the course once it is chosen, and a more disciplined relationship with life.

Conservatives often stand on the shoulders of lineage because they have greater respect for the past. They have more reverence for the sacred power of a document like the Bible that has guided long epochs of human civilization. They have an abiding respect for what works about our market-driven economic system. Conservatives also tend to feel more authentically patriotic because they are more proud of our history and what we've already achieved. For someone like myself, oriented to our future potential, patriotism is a practice rather than something that flows naturally.

A conservative businessman whom I respect told me that he hasn't moved a single piece of furniture in his house in 17 years. Once he got it the way he liked it, that's the way it has stayed. While that detail might be amusing for those of us who prefer change, it's also indicative of a spiritual orientation towards preservation. It's no accident that this businessman has built a powerful and profitable company, with very low turnover. He's in the business of perfecting his commitments rather than finding the newest thing.

Instead of a critique of the shortcomings of the left-wing, then, what I believe is more deeply needed is the practice of honoring what is beautiful in the right-wing coming from a primarily left-wing person. This ultimately accomplishes the same goal, which is to find a place of resonance and respect that transcends party lines and ideology, but it does so by amplifying what is good rather than attempting to negate what is "off." When progressives fixate exclusively on what is wrong, corrupt, or problematic about current Republican leadership, we tend to create an internal polarization that keeps us in a self-righteous and judgmental position. This fixation entrenches our positions rather than opening us to new possibilities.

I'm not saying we shouldn't seek truth and champion its public expression. I'm all for bringing shadowy truths into the bright light of day as well as doing everything in our power to ensure that the candidates who most represent our values prevail. But we can simultaneously do this from a ground of respect and honoring the so-called "other side." The truths we speak when we are honoring will also be far easier to hear by people who don't share our predilections.

I believe all of us are divine, sovereign beings, carrying forward specific and important tasks on planet earth. We may never understand the full story of why we are here and how we are serving these larger projects, or even whom we are working with. But I've glimpsed enough to sense that there is a grander plan that we are co-creating on a spiritual level. The more we can adopt a stance of sacred respect for the role of each of us in that plan, even those who might appear to be our antagonists, enemies, or oppressors, the more we can find ways to collaborate and synergize.

That collaboration must be grounded in an authentic honoring of our unique passions, skills, and predilections. After finding our own truth and our own gifts, though, we need to practice honoring the "other" more deeply. If not, we run the risk of becoming polarized against them and therefore wasting valuable creative energy. The practice of honoring what is foreign to us doesn't come easily. It may run counter to our emotions as well as the encouragement of our social circles. It's more satisfying (and easier) to rehearse the litany of complaints and critiques about the "other." And yet so long as the antagonistic energy grows, we weaken our ability to work together towards shared goals.

America needs to evolve to another level of its expression; current challenges on a planetary level demand nothing less. The easiest way for this to happen is for conservatives to understand that systemic change is required and that change-oriented progressives carry many pieces of that next level. Progressives, on the other hand, need to honor that we cannot build that future in an enduring, stable, grounded way without the business savvy, discernment, and respect for tradition that conservatives more often carry. Such a mutual honoring across party lines can accelerate America's evolution to the next level of our maturity as a country.
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Stephen Dinan is the author of Radical Spirit and the founder of the Radical Spirit community, as well as the Director of Membership and Marketing for the Institute of Noetic Sciences. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in human (more...)

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