July 4 Reflection

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July 4 Reflection

imgresIn the long march of human civilization there has, in just the last few hundred years, developed a line of demarcation that will prove the success or failure of human societies in the future.  It is not a line between rich and poor, liberal or conservative, north and south, Occident and Orient, or believer (of any faith) and infidel.  Those divides are real but not existential. The existential difference is between people who would rather die or kill in the belief that they are more right than others, and people who are willing to admit the possibility that their own beliefs or self-interests are matched by those of others. It is the difference between people who look for what divides us, and those who look for what unites us.

Why am I thinking about this today?  The 4th of July reminds us that 235 years ago a very small group of men (it would have happened more quickly if women were involved) subverted their deepest and most basic divisions to the strength of common interests. On that same date 150 years ago, thousands died on the fields of Gettysburg and thousands more surrendered the trenches of Vicksburg rather than find common ground. Today millions march in the streets of Egypt, struggling to grasp the ring of modernism, rationality, and democracy. Hundreds die in Syria, men kill aid workers in Pakistan, and single-minded political extremists in America fail to understand that lacking compromise, even on fundamental beliefs, our societies fail the test of sustainability.

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By | 2013-07-03T18:54:58+00:00 July 3rd, 2013|Uncategorized|3 Comments

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  1. calseduc July 3, 2013 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    Could it be that compromise is not a viable or valid solution? Could it be that the species is generally incapable of recognizing the difference between need and want? Could it be that in any conflict both sides may operate from a position(want) that is assumed to fulfill a legitimate need and that the needs may not be in conflict? Our difficulties are in the unexamined assumptions about what we want in order to fulfill our needs. Compromise only leaves both sides as losers; ready to fight again.

    • glichtman July 4, 2013 at 12:05 am - Reply

      What you suggest is possible, though there are historical precedents for the success of compromise. And if success is defined as one of relatively less violence, then compromise and empathy are essential.

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