Community is Essential
Transformed by the Pandemic (a series)
May 28, 2020
I know many are like me, circulating stories and memes on social media that reinforce and deepen my own political views. My relationships, both online and in person, have the same quality. The exchange fits into a narrow bandwidth, where people hold back from saying anything that challenges dominant views of the group.
We are sorting as a society, more than ever, through where we live and who we socialize with. We avoided contact with those of different political views long before the pandemic. Studies have shown that people in this country are increasingly less likely to live near someone of a different political party or worldview. We filter news and information through outlets and social media groups that align with our own views. President Trump and his polarizing behavior is not the cause but an outgrowth of this process, who is now propelling it even further by using cultural wars to deflect from his failings.
While this sorting might provide short-term comfort, it erodes what makes society work. This is not serving us. Fear of the other has been kindled into overt discrimination and outright hatred. We are more divided, less civil and we have lost the ability to engage those who see the world differently from us. In a crisis like now, we do not even know how to grieve together, let alone develop a unified strategy to combat a common enemy.
Our democracy muscles have atrophied, making us weaker as individuals and a society. Bipartisan solutions are rarely achieved. Tolerance and forbearance are belittled, making true dialogue to reach mutual understanding a remote possibility.
We can overcome this. We must. If we are to survive the pandemic and the dis-ease that pervaded the country before COVID, we must realize that community is essential. Authentic community recognizes that we are all interconnected. When someone ignores social distancing and does not wear a mask in public, they risk the health of others, of everyone. We are all connected.
Community is essential. We are better together. Nature teaches us that diversity strengthens ecosystems. With exercise, we can get back in shape by building relationships across difference. We need to rebuild our social fabric by valuing differences and including all people, regardless of their political views.
Meg Wheatley states that you don’t fear people whose story you know. This requires turning toward one another, being intentional, noticing. Slowing down during the pandemic has limited--and sharpened—our ability to connect. Let us intentionally seek out deeper connections with those unlike us, those we all too often dismiss or ignore.
There are many organizations building bridges across differences now
- Braver Angels is a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. They host online dialogues.
- The Sustained Dialogue Institute has local university chapters and uses a 5-step dialogue to change process in which people listen to each other deeply enough to be changed by what they learn.
- Essential Partners has worked for decades to build a community strengthened by differences, boldly engaging diverse people around their core values, beliefs and identities.
What will you do to engage someone different from you, to build trusting relationships across political differences? Will you host a dialogue? We at the Community Innovation Network are ready to provide support to those building bridges.
In building bridges across race, the task lies disproportionately on those with white privilege. We must overcome what Robin DiAngelo describes as white fragility, a state in which racial stress becomes intolerable for whites. As white people, we need to take away the “protective pillows” we have built and engage people of color and embrace the racial stress of educating ourselves on the human impact of systemic racism. Notice, listen, learn—follow their lead and join the movement for racial equity. This will create an existential crisis, where we have to reconstruct what it means to be American, and to be white. Racism is a stain on the soul of the country. We must step up to face it. Lives depend on it.
In turning toward each other we have much to gain, individually and as a society when everyone has a place at the table. Turning toward one another and seeing the other’s story, we let go of the image we have created of them. We see them as human, as beloved. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted the essence of this process when he said, "Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”
作者：Mark Chupp (email@example.com) 翻译：崔馨元
- Braver Angels是一个将红色和蓝色美国人联合在一起的公民组织，旨在瓦解美国的两极分化。他们经常主持在线对话。
- Sustained Dialogue Institute 在当地大学设有分部，采用5步对话的方式来改变进程。在这个过程中，人们彼此倾听得足够深，可以根据他们所学的知识进行改变。
- 几十年来，Essential Partners一直致力于建立一个因分歧而更强的社区。他们大胆地让有不同核心价值观、信仰和身份的人参与进来。
你会做些什么和与你不同的人打交道？你将如何跨政治分歧建立信任关系？你会主持一场交换意见的对话吗？在当地，我们Community Innovation Network随时准备为那些搭建桥梁的人/组织/机构提供支持。
当每个人都能在谈判桌上占有一席之地时，无论是作为个人还是作为一个社会，我们都能从彼此的转向中获益良多。我们转向彼此，看到了对方的故事，便放下了我们为他们创造的形象。我们将他们视为人类，视为至爱。马丁·路德·金(Martin Luther King, Jr.)指出了这一过程的本质，他说:“爱是唯一能化敌为友的力量。”