This topic isn’t a new one here at the Tenth Amendment Center. We often discuss the left/right paradigm, and the sentiment of John Adams that; “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”
Who could have known those words would ring so true today.
I had the opportunity to spend some time with our friends at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee this weekend, along with a few coalition partners. I arrived at our Friday night reception to meet a bunch of really open, and friendly activists. As we headed into our weekend, several of those in attendance identified themselves to me as progressives. Early on, someone labeled me as the capitalist, libertarian contingent in the room. It turned out that for a few, capitalism and libertarians weren’t necessarily the most popular things going around. Fortunately, we were all there to learn and those things didn’t detract. I was able to share a little bit about coalition building, and the need for us to work together, regardless of where we have politically identified up until now.
Within personal bubble, I tend to be in contact with a lot more people who consider themselves to be politically on the right. I am very used to the bad arguments and misconceptions coming from that side. It was incredibly interesting for me to be with a group who almost wholly identifying with the political left. Turns out, they have some of the same misconceptions about the other side, as the other side has about them! Of course I already knew that to be true, but somehow, within the group, it seemed more profound.
As the realization of this sank in, I just felt sad. Because here was a room full of really fantastic people, doing good work. People with amazing perspective, great ideas, and intelligent things to say… and a whole group of people across the aisle were missing out on them. I personally benefited incredibly from the wealth of experience and thoughtfulness that was in that room. I considered a couple of people at home who could have used the experience even more than I. It was challenging for me, at times, because I had one or two preconceived notions of my own that I wasn’t completely aware of. More than challenging though, it was just really inspiring. I was impressed by the level of respectfulness that everyone showed to one another.
Greedy corporations and the overbearing, overreaching federal government are happy to keep us disagreeing over anything and everything. Gay marriage? Abortion? Race issues? Let’s stir some up! The truth is, they know that as long as we are fighting each other, we cannot be effectively fighting them. We MUST realize this, and work to find our common ground.
You know, it isn’t that hard.
No one wants to be subject to indefinite detention. Neither do rational people want their family members, friends, or neighbors to be unfairly profiled and arrested without just cause. Nobody wants to be the victim of police abuse. Everyone wants to be free to worship in their own way. We want to be treated equally. We want safe communities where we are not bullied, or coerced to spy on our neighbors, where we can grow healthy food, where our sheriff is a good guy. These are basic and important things, and we all agree on them. I bet if we started collaborating more, we would discover that we actually have a lot MORE to agree on than we have to disagree on. I bet that as peers we could even find ways to work out our differences and help our communities much better than the huge bureaucracies are doing.
I’m sure most of you reading this have heard someone quote Neimoller from WWII…
“They came for the Communists, and I didn’t object – For I wasn’t a Communist; They came for the Socialists and I didn’t object – For I wasn’t a Socialist; They came for the labor leaders, and I didn’t object – For I wasn’t a labor leader; They came for the Jews, and I didn’t object – For I wasn’t a Jew; Then they came for me – And there was no one left to object.”
I see this sort of thing already happening. By pointing fingers and blaming the guy on the other side, we become those who turn our face away when those same people are “taken.” I mean, after all, it’s their fault, right? But who’s next? The fact is, we are either all in this together, or we are fragments that can be picked off one by one. We need to find a way to look and see people, not democrats or republicans, or libertarians, or whatever label you use.
People who want to be free.
As free as possible, not living in fear of one another.