“We must all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately.” At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Founders, the signers, the revolutionaries, not surprisingly seen as traitors by the British Crown, George III, would all be hung by the neck until dead, unless they hung together, somehow managing to rally this tiny, new country sufficiently to defeat the mightiest military power on earth. The mightiest ever seen. The odds against them were staggering, but the deep-seated yearning for freedom motivated them to step up, and, by signing the Declaration, put their, “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” on the line for America. And us. Yes, you and me. We are the descendants who inherited the freedoms they all risked all to attain.
And it was far from easy. The Declaration of Independence had to be debated for days, starting out with most who were in attendance either against it, or understandably nervous and skeptical. In the end, it was unanimous. They all lined up to sign. They found a way to come together–enthusiastically. Each member proudly stepping up to affix his signature, pledging his, “life, fortune and sacred honor.” And if you look back on the history of the Revolutionary War, in summary: We lost, we lost, we lost, we lost…and then we won. And they never gave up.
Our country has a history of coming together. Lincoln famously put together a Cabinet of disparate individuals known as a Team of Rivals. And it took the best these highly different individuals had to offer to win the Civil War–a war that had to be won. Imagine a divided country, where slavery was still legal in almost half of it. Less famously, but just as importantly, FDR put together another team of Rivals during WWII. Once again, it was the different strengths of these oh-so-very different people that added greatly to the strength of the team. Were those teams messier that than teams where the members are more like minded? Of course. Is the team of rivals approach better–does it produce better results? Absolutely.
As Americans, we face threats–existential threats as serious as those posed by the British in the 1770s, and the slaveholding states that wanted to break way in the 1860s.
In a sense, the Revolutionary War was us against us, all being British citizens, and the Civil War was indeed us against us, sometimes literally brother against brother. Yes, the conflict was geographically defined, but if you look a political map of the US today, you will see similarly clearly geographically drawn political dividing lines. And we are greatly divided.
Abraham Lincoln taught us that any existential threat must come from inside. “From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia…could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.”
More colloquially, but just as powerfully, comes the observation from Pogo, a Swamp Possum in the eponymous cartoon drawn by the late, brilliant Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Exactly the same sentiment; if we the world’s oldest democracy and the most powerful country economically and militarily the world has ever seen, are to be done in, brought down, or even simply made less than we are today, it will be by our own hands. And if we, you and I do nothing, we are just a responsible.
What is it that could bring us down? Tribalism, sort of. Identity politics, well, again, sort of. “I’m right because I’m me, and you’re wrong because you are not me.” That is the core of it. We, individually and as a society, lose because we insist on being right, and insist that those who disagree with us are wrong. Worse, that absolute sense of who is right and who is wrong, almost always rests on cliches, slogans and half-truths. The people who take the needed time to go through the Results With Reason-like process of finding common ground yes, it always exists, applying pertinent facts (those things the law calls evidence), and using non abgenda-based reasoning applied to the facts to reach the found common ground, are always interested in hearing from others who have also gone through a thoughtful process, and may wind up disagreeing–even disagreeing about everything. And that is where productive debate starts. Arguments where nothing but cliches, slogans and half-truths are in play will wind up like cable-news snit fits. No minds are changed, and most people are more dug into their positions after than before. With nothing new added to the issues being discussed. Just more dug in.
Arguments between a cliche-slinger and thoughtful, Results With Reason-type thinker, most often wind up with the more thoughtful person simply giving up. They grow mightily weary of their facts and reason being met with cliches and slogans, often delivered in the form of insults. The cliche- thrower and their fans declare victory, and the issue being discussed loses. As do we, and our society.
Insistence on being right, especially when based on cliches, identity politics and anger is the enemy. Worse, is the insistence that the other person, the other side be made wrong and made to repent and repay somehow.
Our lives are not in danger, but the quality of our lives is. Our fortunes are not in danger, but the economy that we will leave to our children and grandchildren is very much at stake here. And our honor is always at stake. Every moment of every day. We know the freedoms and opportunity the Founders left us. What are we leaving for those coming behind us? And what are we willing to do to change that?
I’m sill on my road trip; currently in Half Moon Bay, California, for three nights. Last night, I had dinner with four wonderful friends. All different from me, and different from each other. I was nervous–more nervous than I let on–about how they were reacting to my podcasts. My politics and worldview are often different from one or more of them, depending upon the topic. I was surprised–amazed–actually, at the encouragement I received. It lifted my soul. Then I saw it. We were a version of those Teams of Rivals. No leader as in Lincoln or FDR, but a team of very, very different people. Bound together by love, and the certain belief that each of us has the clearest and the brightest of motivations, and listening hearts.
I want to suggest three links, they will add to today’s topic:
Now, as always, please do contact me about anything. Respond in my Results With Reason blog, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’m easy to find on iTunes, Google Play and the usual Bat Channels, including Twitter and Facebook.
It is time for our usual parting thought. For us at Results With Reason, it is not only change your thinking, change your life. It is change your thinking, change your actions, change the world. And if you can do it in love and enjoy the people around you at the same time, all the better. Remember: Knowledge by itself is the booby prize.
Will Luden, writing to you from the road–with my Grandson, William, today…:).