Conservative political commentator David Brooks has a new book out entitled the, The Second Mountain: The Quest for A Moral Life. He begins with a review of the data that reveal the nation’s moral crises including a 70% rise in suicides by kids 10-16 years old that contributes to the nation’s 45,000 annual suicides and 72,000 deaths due to opioids each year. He believes that this crisis is due to an over emphasis on individualism and the rise of narcissism that has weakened bonds between people. He believes we’ve “lost a sense of the common good.”
He then describes that those focused on healing the divides between people, on creating right relationship, are more likely to live in joy. I agree with Brooks and this creates a dilemma for me as an activist seeking change. How do I push for change without deepening the divides? How do I critique political or corporate leaders without painting them as evil people? The only I answer I have so far is to accept the fact that I must be patient, that significant change takes lots of time. This might allow me to be less vitriolic, more philosophical in my critique of the opposition.
My dilemma makes me think back to my conversation about crossing the divides of race and privilege with Miakoda Jyll Taylor from February 12th. She shared in the final minutes of that podcast how she had an awakening about her attitude about white people following the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Her first response had been to demonize those who elected him. But as a person of color, who had been demonized, she realized this would not do. She felt the need to make amends, to create right relationship by letting them know she empathized with their plight and their fears and the harms they experience in our modern world. I too seek such a connection with those farmers, politicians and corporate leaders who seem to stand against all the things I hope to see in the world.
The day after Notre Dame burned in Paris as the entire world watched, David Brooks said something in a televised interview about the book that stays with me. He pointed out that cathedrals stand because the buttresses that hold the building up are pushing against one another in a balanced way. He said, politics should be a place where we find that balance of interests, but currently it is not. I think he’s right, we need to find ways to push against one another but also create stability, not chaos and collapse. I yearn for the time when compromise is not seen as a bad thing, a time when we agree to disagree with civility and a commitment to find a balance that will allow our nation to endure for at least as long as Notre Dame.
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