As so many others are doing during this now fifth month of the global Coronavirus pandemic and social distancing, I am turning to social media to maintain connections with family and friends. In recent days, our millennial grandchildren have stepped forward with their voices about these unique times in our world’s history. I find their views, opinions, words, and wisdom enlightening, riveting, and inspirations for hope in our future.
Our eldest grandson, soon to be 33, who is my husband’s and eldest son’s namesake is just one of these young men who chooses to voice his opinions, not to bring forth disagreements or arguments, but to open and expand eyes and minds to embracing new ways of seeing ourselves, others and the world. And, even drawing on his scholarly attributes to reflect back on history–very similar to this blog site’s goal of using reflections of the past as mirrors to our future. Without further ado, here are the words and wisdom of our grandson Robert Joseph Dickinson, III, published on social media today:
We often perceive those who disagree with us as enemies. For as much energy as we Americans expend quarrelling over our differences, we fail to realize what a true source of strength they are. Individual members of an entirely like-minded populace would be neither beautiful nor inspiring and would ultimately be expendable in terms of the whole. It is our differences that make us individually valuable to a society. A person’s unique values, ideas, insights and experiences, are infinitely more worthwhile than their sameness. It is in differences that we as a people find the strength to overcome tyranny of all kinds. Above all else, the imperfect people who devised our constitution feared tyranny, which comes in many forms; an autocratic king, the religious majority, the rich over the poor, the majority will, or even the minority will. Those imperfect governmental framers considered our differences so important that they built our government around them. James Madison theorized that in a large country, like the 13 united colonies, the array of competing differences would ultimately serve as a check on any majority, as it would be nearly impossible for any one group to claim enough power as to terrorize any of the others. “There is no maxim… which is more likely to be misapplied than… that the interest of the majority is the political standard of right and wrong.” Our differences make us powerful and beautiful. They should be celebrated and yet, in 2020 more often than not, we attack each other over differences. We feel threatened by those who disagree with us. Why?
I believe the answer lies partially in social conditioning. There is an insidious red and blue paradigm which has taught us to associate specific values and view points with one or the other of our two major political parties. In doing so, we have actively reduced our myriad outlooks into two sets of views; one red, one blue. It has become a zero-sum game in which the winner would be perceived as terrorizing the loser. This is why our disagreements seem so threatening. This is evident in the widely accepted political strategy of voting for the lesser evil. We have been reduced to voting for deeply flawed candidates on both sides and justifying it as a necessary measure to overcome the perceived tyranny of our red or blue opposites. Yes, candidate “A” might be a scumbag, but consider the alternative…
This doesn’t seem like liberty to me. That I should feel at odds with other Americans because of their stances on 2A, abortion, tax plans, standing or kneeling doesn’t feel like liberty to me. That people remove social media friends based on disagreements doesn’t feel like liberty to me. That I should feel the need to silence myself to avoid popular backlash doesn’t feel like liberty to me. That we demonize people for disagreeing doesn’t feel like liberty to me.
Love people who are different than you. Engage them in discussion. Take stances. Be respectful. Learn. Even if you disagree, learn anyways. Listen. If someone doesn’t understand, help them understand. Don’t condescend. Unshackle yourself from this two-party, with-us-or-against-us, mentality. Every dictator that has ever been allowed to stay in power has done so by playing anyone with the power to unseat them against themselves. We have the power. Why should we fight each other?
And, similar insightful and inciting words of another thirty-something southern gentlemen who spoke out 245 years earlier. (Unfortunately, he lived during the times when southerners owned slaves to tend to their plantations.)