Today is Election Day and it’s an important one. Please vote–let your voice be counted.
The other day, I found this op ed I wrote in October of 2008 and re-read it. It was published in the Denver Post’s Online Guest Commentary on October 31, 2008. When I read it again, I was disheartened by the fact that our country has become much more divided rather than united in the last 10 years. Over the last 10 years, I’ve also changed my political affiliation to Independent, as it feels more in alignment with my own truth.
A Purple Nation
By Rhonda Ashurst
I am a Democrat and my husband is a Republican; my father is a Democrat and my mother is a Republican. The bipartisan nature of my families, of this nation, fascinates me.
Political maps show red Republican states and blue Democratic states, as if we can be so easily divided. I have long suspected that there are many purple families like my own, and that we also more blended individually than our party affiliations might indicate. I vote for Republican candidates when I think they are better suited for the job. I know many people, including my family members, who regularly cross party lines. We have informative, respectful debates and sometimes we sway each others’ opinions and votes. We can agree to disagree, and still have dinner together and get the dishes done.
My curiosity about partisan politics led me to George Lakoff’s book on The Political Mind. Dr. Lakoff is a cognitive scientist who studies the underlying differences in how conservatives and progressives view the world. In a nutshell, Lakoff defines progressive thought as empathic and protective and conservative thought as strict and authoritarian. He makes the excellent point that we are all bi-conceptual, using both types of reasoning in different circumstances. Like good parenting, good governing requires a balanced perspective between nurturance and accountability.
A current example is the $700 billion bailout of the mortgage crisis. A bi-conceptual solution would include helping people to stay in their homes, as well as offering assistance to financial institutions to keep our financial system from collapsing as it did during the Great Depression. In addition, there would be accountability to the American people in how this $700 billion was going to be spent and a return on investment when the markets recover. We would question the wisdom of laissez-faire free markets and increase regulation of financial markets in the future. As individuals and as a nation, we would take an honest look at our spending habits and resolve not to spend beyond our means.
Getting out of this mess requires a bipartisan, bi-conceptual solution that is both supportive and accountable and involves all of us, as well as other nations. This global crisis has underscored the fact that we are all inter-connected and when a stone is thrown, it causes ripples in worldwide pond.
In times like these, we need a nurturing parent who says, “Don’t panic, we will find a way through this. Here is what I can do to help.” We also need a strict parent who says, “If I’m going to help you, we will have to agree on a plan for how you will do this differently in the future. I will hold you accountable to the plan and I expect you to do your part.” After reviewing information on the current plan, I’m not convinced we are there yet.
When we go to the polls on Election Day, we must consider which candidates and ballot measures represent the balanced perspective we so desperately need to meet the challenges we face as a nation. We cannot afford to let partisan polarities immobilize this great country. It is time to unite towards common goals, utilizing the strengths of our different views, and honoring that we all have a role to play in the recovery.
Republican or Democrat, red or blue—we are all united in the common dream that we may pursue life, liberty, and happiness from a place of security and stability. We all want our children to have these same opportunities and not to be saddled with our mistakes and a mountain of debt. As a long-time member of purple families, I know we can rise above our differences and be a purple nation.
It is up to each of us to look for our common threads of humanity, our shared dreams. If we look under the surface of our differences, we may find we have far more in common at the deeper levels than we realize. It is time to stop feeding the fire of division and nurture our unity as a nation and a people.
When we are divided, we are challenged to think of where our unity exists.Strawberry Creek Monthly Quaker Meeting, 1989