Date night in Congress was charming. Is it possible for our leaders to practice civil discussion and act for the well-being of all? More than possible it is desperately needed.
The assassination attempt on Representative Gabby Giffords may be a game changer for how we view one another. This tragedy led to members of Congress sitting alongside one another for the State of the Union address instead of being seated by party.
Sitting together invites discovery of one another. Rumi’s notion of meeting on a field beyond notions of right doing and wrong doing invites a shift in what it means to be leaders and citizens.
Shrill sound bites, rigid positions and demonizing the “opposition” are like the gladiator games which thrived as economic and political crises unraveled the Roman Empire. It may ignite and excite those with rigid positions but it demeans and does little for “we the people.”
We want more of our leaders than an adult version of the schoolyard bullying that we denounce in our schools and communities. We deserve better. We should expect more.
The dignity of difference that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes about is possible. It honors deeply held personal beliefs but refuses to allow them to become weapons. On the path to adulthood most of us realized that we cannot have everything we want. Instead we learned about what is needed. We learned that the world was not just about us!
Individual liberty is a precious value and expectation. Its value shines more brightly when my own liberty is discovered as being bundled up with the liberty of others. We need one another. We learn from each other. My liberty and well-being is enhanced when yours is enhanced.
Sitting together offers a path to civil discourse. I can’t sit next to you and not engage with you! Listening to one another unlocks the gate to a field where we discover that the other person is really not much different than me. In the listening we discover that, as Paul Donoghue and Mary Siegel suggest, We Really Need to Talk! In talking, previously held rigid assumptions make way for creativity and imagination. Creative imagination invites actions that enhance my liberty and well-being as much as yours.
Is this all just “making nice”? If we are disingenuous about the process, then yes. If we’re looking for a path that honors one another then we keep working at it. Those whose personal agenda is served by rigidity and gladiator games will always lurk about. They will try to seize the day unless we start modeling a different path. Unless we let our leaders know that we expect them to meet on a field and go beyond notions of right doing and wrong doing.
When our leaders lead by sitting together, listening, talking and allowing creative imagination to enhance the well-being of you and me we have a choice. We can tear them down. Or we can choose to encourage and affirm them.
If we want open mindset leaders we each act as leaders in setting the expectations. We each lead when we seek those same values and goals in our own spheres of influence. We lead like this at home, in our schools, communities and workplaces.
Date night offers the possibility of a more real, more substantive way of relating. Discovering the dignity of difference is the real game changer. Your liberty and well-being, along with mine, are dignified even in our differences. Then we discover that beyond notions of right doing and wrong doing action is possible.
It’s in our hands.
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