Quality relationships strengthen democracy
Molineaux is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and president/CEO of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.
The quality of our relationships is one measure of our national strength and our country’s well-being. “A house divided against itself can not stand,” as Abraham Lincoln once noted. Authoritarians have noted this, too. Hence their efforts to spew lies and conspiracy theories designed to weaken our nation.
My ongoing (and rhetorical) questions about our ability to strengthen democracy and bridge our divides include:
- Given how smart we are, why do we allow ourselves to be divided?
- What is so damn important about our political identities that we splinter ourselves into warring camps and suffer alone or in grievance groups?
- How might we use our skills as mediators, coaches, conflict specialists and bridgers to remind us and those around us that politics is only one part of who we are?
- We have common human needs and common goals, which we seem to forget. How can we remember better?
- Who are we really? Who must we become?
- How do we discredit the conflict profiteers and minimize their damage?
Systemically, we need scholars of authoritarianism to lead the way. As human beings sharing a community, we need people to have the skills of bridging and conflict resolution to self-govern in a healthy way, once we have chosen our democratic republic and/or improved upon it.
A September article about a psychologist highlights the importance of high-quality relationships and supports the underlying hypothesis of the bridging divides work for self-governance:
“A high-quality relationship is one in which we have an ongoing sense that our partner has our back,” says Alexandra Solomon, a licensed clinical psychologist, author and host of the Reimagining Love podcast.
Solomon adds other factors that can come into play, such as a sense of trust and commitment. “Commitment is essential,” Solomon notes. “That sense that you were here yesterday, you’re here today, you’re going to be here tomorrow. That sense of continuity helps us relax and makes it safe enough to be vulnerable.”
We have all experienced trauma, from family dynamics to the education system to the pandemic and more. When we lose relationships over politics, that is an additional trauma. Now we have an entire body politic that is traumatized while we are experiencing massive change due to multiple crises.
We need each other more than ever before. Yet societally, we are experiencing an epidemic of loneliness. When an authoritarian group recruits, it offers a community and the vulnerable among us the opportunity to decide it’s a better option.
Can we imagine what it’s like for someone to have our back? To have confidence that our fellow Americans and people different from ourselves are committed to our happiness and well-being? Of course, we need to provide that for others, too.
We need to have each other’s back in society – that’s liberty and justice for all, as we used to pledge in school.
Our multiple crises feel urgent. Many of us already know what is needed. It is time to be bold. It is time to turn ideas into action. Let us act now; to nurture and prioritize high-quality relationships with people who are different from ourselves. Denounce political violence and take pledges to accept election results. Advancing the American experiment is the work of our lifetimes. And if we succeed, we will rededicate to one another (via bridging divides) and to our democratic republic (via non-violent, pro-democracy acts).
Let’s stop studying the problem and start the work. That’s the essence of the bridging divides and pro-democracy work for everyday people.
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