As our society tears itself apart by either propagation or casualty of polarized narratives, our saving grace can be found within the very documents that both the left and right contend the meanings of.
The Declaration of Independence, as one example, contains the solution in the very title. Independence. It is just that literal. We return to the spirit of independence by thinking independently. What is an independent? By simple definition, independent means that one is not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc. It means that one thinks or acts for oneself.
Being independent means one is not willfully influenced by the thoughts or actions of others. It means that we are not dependent or contingent upon something else for existence.
It means we are not subject to another's authority or jurisdiction. It means we are autonomous.
It means we are free! It means that it is time for America’s critical thinkers to declare themselves independent.
The United States Constitution reinforces the idea of what independence should mean for both the individual and the collective. Consider the preamble:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
What is more perfect than truth? What is justice if it is not truth? What turbulence would tranquility be without truth?
Our country has fallen into desperation because we have lost sight of the truth. There is no truth, or there is the omittance of truth from our political class. There is no trust in our judicial system. There is no perception of integrity in our world of Big Tech. And arguably the most poisonous venom to strike the truth has come from the mainstream media. This has created the mistrust in our communities, with our neighbors, and tragically even within our own families. It has made us unnecessarily angry at each other. It has separated us from even our own intellectual independence.
Our country cannot sustain the hatred that is caused by such a pandemic environment of mistrust or distrust. We are on a collision course with revolution. That revolution could manifest itself in the dark, traditional sense. Or if we choose, if we make the conscious choice to save our republic, it can be a peaceful revolution. An intellectual revolution.
I am not suggesting the dissolvement of political parties, but rather the dilution of their rhetoric, a rhetoric that leaves little room for anything other than opposing absolutes. People will most often vote according to their values. Each side has many values that are distinctly different. We are forced to choose, and be the consequences of a set of absolutes; left or right. Some have suggested a third political party is the answer, but I contend that it’s not a third party but a third practice we need. What used to be moderation.
We need to rebuild the intellectual class of our society, unbound from the political dogma that is burning at both ends. We need more thought and less emotion, more listening and less talking, more envisioning and less reacting, and most of all more kindness and less hatred.
It may seem an impossible task, but it is surely not. And the cost of ignoring this responsibility is enormous, it is the loss of our republic. The loss of liberty for generations to come. That proposition alone should frighten one right out of their narrative, which is exactly where it starts.
We must dismantle the sociopolitical narratives, or at least mitigate their toxic takeover of our minds — which leads to problematic and too often extreme, absolutist behavior. We must be willing to be more inquisitive with the world around us instead of claiming a pseudo-expertise of each new issue that comes along. I believe, I trust in, and I swear by the assertion that we’ve all become brainwashed with misinformation, counterproductive information, and harmful information about those we consider to be our opposites in societal values.
We’ve been programmed, manipulated by our own free voices and votes, to turn on each other. It is time that we start asking powerful questions, while we still have the liberty to speak freely.
We are so much closer than our minds are currently enabling us to be, because of the self-inflicted need to feel a loathing towards those we disagree with. We have forgotten how to agree to disagree. Consider the debates of the Constitutional Convention, at a time when the colonists had two very polarized views about what our country should even become. They approached these incredibly complex issues directly, but first with thoughtful respect. They were careful not to speak of the items which they did not know. They were agreeable to listening and considering alternative perspectives.
Independence was born from the independents, who understood the gravity of their actions, and how they would affect future generations. They knew that all voices must be heard and considered, with respect. That liberty was so important, before all others, that it was placed first among our amendments. These independent, recently-liberated Americans knew the importance of thoughtful dialogue that should be conducted at all times with with the truth in mind.
We will begin to heal our society when we can have mindful discussions with each other about complex issues the way our founding fathers did. We will begin to have those mindful discussions with each other when we can first be mindful with ourselves, and recognize that we lost our independence a long time ago. If not our liberty, the most important tool to preserving it — our inquisitive minds.
We’ve given too much of our physiological energy to the narratives at either political pole. The truth, as often stated, usually lands somewhere in the middle.
Being an independent in our sociopolitical realm is an area that is often mocked when it should be revered. It is the most fundamental association with our liberties, and the type of republic our founders had hoped for. The checks and balances throughout our Constitution were designed with that very thing in mind — avoiding the polarization of Americans against themselves, or at least giving them the tools to disagree without tearing apart the fabric of our founding premise — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.