Somewhere, I won’t try to pinpoint exactly when, we as American stopped solving our problems. And it happened when we started seeing those with opposing views as the enemy, rather than seeing the problem as the enemy. We seek to shift blame. We then shift our focus onto each other instead of the problem. The problem becomes just a tool to leverage in the battle for moral superiority. We end up more divided, more mistrustful, more hurt and angry, and having accomplished nothing meaningful.
Conflict Resolution is about ending hostilities in a conflict, but as we often see, the underlying problems and old patterns lead to new conflicts cloaked in new language. Conflict Transformation is about building consensus, changing patterns, and addressing underlying issues. In Conflict Transformation, the goal is to move away from “winning” or no longer openly fighting, it becomes about cooperating to attack the shared problem in spite of our differences. Our conflicts as a nation need to be transformed for America to prosper.
We need to remember that those who want to solve our national problems a different way are TRYING TO SOLVE PROBLEMS, not trying to ruin our country through mean spirited or reckless agendas. When you see someone advocating a solution you don’t agree with, instead of ensuring stalemate by fighting them, come along side them and see if you can find a mutually agreeable course of action. Respect that they care enough to try, respect that they are willing to give of their time and effort to make our country better. Discuss, persuade, compromise, treat them as a member of your team, which they are.
In response to inexcusable problems in our country, we need to address them by building whatever tiny bits of consensus for action we can find, no matter how small or basic, rather than quickly ending up deadlocked in a heated struggle while the problem has scampered out the back door, ready to strike again. It’s hardheaded and foolish, and frankly un-American. The Founding Fathers had immense ideological differences about incredibly important issues, yet hey saw what was at stake. They disagreed bitterly on many key issues but they knew their common goal was too important not to reach consensus, or at least compromise. For those who think compromise is failure, it is exactly how they created a free, safe, and stable democracy.
We must completely throw away our conflict-based political culture and turn together toward our common goals and common problems even when we can barely find common ground to start from. We must start by changing our attitudes about political opposition and committing to consensus baby-steps until we are no longer a nation divided against itself, ready to fall, but a nation stronger for its diversity.