Readers are quite right to question how I can expect the intense hostilities and incivility current among the American people to allow any dialog or cooperation at all.
I have never said it would be easy. It will be extremely difficult. But I believe we have no choice. Our failure saps our spirit, undermines our strength and impedes governance. It could actually lead to the loss of the American Republic and everything it stands for.
I think it interesting that our young people can commit themselves to discipline, teamwork, and decisive action in the armed forces – while the rest of us appear unwilling to exercise even basic civility, much less the loyalty and generosity that have characterized the American tradition.
Faced with an oncoming series of major crises, it will be necessary to renew our spirits and brace ourselves for frustrations. Working with our neighbors to resolve local problems will bring us together. Collaborating to meet shared needs will steady our course.
The success of communities in developing shared purpose and strategies for coping, will be critically important. This can only happen when we rise above our differences and begin to understand and trust one another as friends, neighbors, and allies.
It is not necessary to compromise our personal views and beliefs. The challenge is to be both self-confident within ourselves and respectful of others as we engage in local problem-solving.
This might require that we adjust our attitudes. Can we come to terms with one another as teammates and compatriots committed to the fundamental integrity of the nation?
No cohesive effort can be mounted, much less succeed, if we cannot get ourselves onto the same page. This will not be possible if we cannot communicate with civility and listen with understanding.
The way we handle working relationships and resolve local problem-solving will be the first stage in preparing for the future. A right attitude for dealing with an immediate crisis, as I suggested in an earlier post, will probably be the right attitude for working with one another to build a better future.
There will inevitably be confusion at times, and difficulties comprehending problems. The American people are under immense pressure. Many of us are already demoralized.
Those who have the presence of mind to engage in problem-solving will need to step forward and pull their neighbors together.
Working with people can be one of our greatest tests. This is a fundamental aspect of the life we have been given in this world.
I will continue to offer practical perspectives and tools for building trust and dependability when working with people in our communities, including those who are especially difficult to work with.
Assistance will be available in my forthcoming book, and more detailed guidance will follow in a handbook for communities.
A variety of topics will include: 1) Rising above personal differences to build dependable relationships; 2) local decision-making in small groups; 3) planning and managing community gardens and other local projects; and, 4) responding to conflict with an approach called conflict transformation.
You might wonder what I mean by “conflict transformation”.
This is a practical approach to serious conflict, which is described most clearly by John Paul Lederach in “The Little Book of Conflict Transformation”. The book is inexpensive and available from major booksellers.
Conflict transformation looks beyond immediate surface issues to recognize and respond to the personal or group experiences that led to the conflict. It seeks first to reach a shared understanding of perceptions and underlying causes, and then to address the actual human needs relating to the conflict. Finally, participants are invited to join in seeking satisfying solutions.
When the going gets tough, we would do well to remember that user-friendly tools are available for group collaboration and problem-solving, online and from booksellers.
No one can do this for us. Each of us can learn – if we have the will to stand up, take responsibility for the future, and refuse to give up.
Notes to new readers: Please watch for the next post on or about January 17. A project description and several chapter drafts from the forthcoming book are linked on this page (see above). Please see especially Chapter One: American Crucible.