The polarization (division into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs) of our nation is self-evident—in politics, religion, science, in rural and urban life (red states vs. blue states) in human equality, and in the tension that exists in many minds between the needs of the individual and the needs of society. Polarization is a form of paralysis. This “Either/or” mentality tears asunder the ideas of compromise, brother and sisterhood, and community. “My way or the highway,” —“love it or leave it” (spoken by any group) are slogans of the either/or nemesis which will, in time, destroy a democratic society. In such a society as ours, the “winner” cannot take all, nor can the winning side claim absolute control without taking into consideration the ideas of the losers and those out of power. The divide is 47% on one side; maybe 53% on the other (my statistics). “Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater” is an expression that might fit this either/or divide.
There is nothing wrong with being a “Conservative,” defined as “a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.” There is nothing wrong with being a “Liberal,” defined as those “favoring reform, open to new ideas, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; not bound by traditional thinking; broad-minded.” It is not necessary to say that one is a Conservative or one is a Liberal. All human beings happen to be both—that is, both conservative and liberal. Everyone who is “intellectually and spiritually alive” is a Liberal, in the sense that he or she “seeks truth from any quarter, welcoming any evidence without the bondage of prejudgment.” Everyone who is “intellectually and spiritually alive” is a Conservative, because he or she is unwilling to toss aside whatever has proved itself in the long experience of history. It is not a matter of “Either/Or.” The reality is (in me and in you) that we are both—Conservative and Liberal—by virtue of being thinking persons.
What has occurred in our time, or so it seems to me, is that we have lost the true meaning of the terms and thus, misuse them. The same is true in our use of the words, Fundamentalist, Conservative, Evangelical and Liberal, in matters of religion. Wherever “Either/Or” becomes the basis of our thinking, we become something less than a “whole” person, indeed, we have made ourselves schizophrenic and paralyzed by limiting who we really are. And what are we? We are “many selves”—there is a conservative and a liberal in each of us—if we are rational and introspective beings. It is destructive to us as persons to claim that we are one or the other; it is destructive to our democratic way of life to label one another as being one or the other. WE ARE BOTH/AND if we but think about it. “And” is an important conjunction! Words have definitions and we ought to use words rightly rather than isolating such words as labels (an automatic either/or).
|Empty chairs await us at a Greek Taverna...|
Why don't we sit down together under the Bougainvillea and become whole?