I have the pleasure & privilege of corresponding with a few international friends from Ukraine, Guatemala & Italy. It’s always eye-opening–& sometimes jolting—to receive their feedback on various national & international issues. Recently, one of these friends asked me–& these were her exact words,
“What’s going on with you Americans these days? Why can’t you just deal with the truth?”
Hmmmm. Ever since that conversation, I’ve been aware of a gradually rising anger & anxiety within myself. The other morning, after receiving just a micro-dose of daily news, I wanted to throw the messenger (my laptop) out with the message: that so many on the political scene seem to be abandoning facts in favor of either retaining or regaining power.
We do have a problem with truth in America.
Unfortunately, as I’m remembering my psychology studies, there are two deeply-rooted inclinations in humans that handicap us when addressing that problem…
First, there’s “cognitive immunization.” When we experience uncomfortable thoughts & emotions that don’t mesh with our dearly held beliefs, we naturally become unreceptive to facts in an attempt to reduce our discomfort. Think denial of extramarital affairs or beloved sports teams’ plummeting performance. Cognitive immunization helps to explain how, even in the face of overwhelmingly contradictory evidence, we’re not only unable to let go of beliefs, they can become even stronger when challenged.
Then there’s “confirmation bias:” the natural inclination to avoid information that contradicts our strongly held beliefs, while simultaneously seeking out information that strengthens them.
But our evolutionary challenges with facts don’t represent our only problem with truth. We’ve also forgotten the truth of who we are, not only as a nation, but most importantly it seems to me, as a species. We’ve become blind to what ancient wisdom has always taught is our essential nature.
And then sometimes inspiration can come from the most unexpected places…
A recent news article from Louisiana featured a perfectly normal-appearing woman introducing her wooly, caramel-colored cow named Dumpling & her dark, nondescript duck called Milkshake; she described these two pets as “besties.” I almost laughed out loud at her preposterous claim! But when the woman demonstrated how Milkshake wouldn’t step into the lake unless her BFF took a dip with her, my smirk vanished. There they ultimately were, Dumpling & Milkshake, such unlikely companions, side by side in the lake having a gay old time together!
These simple creatures seem able to mirror what Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace prize laureate & peaceful warrior against apartheid in South Africa, described & modeled:
“We are made for togetherness… Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another… If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”
Recently, I wrote to President Biden urging him to approach Republican leadership in order to co-coordinate a bi-partisan conflict resolution/mediation process that would be tasked with helping leaders from both parties:
1. share feelings & reduce hostilities,
2. clear up misunderstandings & correct disinformation,
3. determine underlying interests & concerns,
4. find areas of agreement, &
5. incorporate those areas into solutions devised by the parties themselves.
Of course, as individuals, we’re always called to “be the change we wish to see” in our country. But additionally, if the idea of such a nationwide conflict resolution/mediation process feels important to you, I urge you to share that view in your own way to whomever you believe might listen.
It seems to me that we humans, with supposedly highest intelligence & resources, should be able to summon the courage, wisdom & ingenuity to work through the differences that jeopardize our not-so-united states.
What do you think? I’d love to hear.
My best in the meantime…