In the United States we are in the midst of an extremely severe civil conflict between two of the strongest mentalities in our culture.
On one side we have the Main Street mentality and on the other the Liberal Arts/Social Science/Disadvantaged Coalition mentality. The Main Street mentality values hard work (individual initiative and effort), moral values that contribute to traditional family and social stability, respect for authority, patriotism and minimal government interference beyond the provision of basic regulations for the sake of order, for the national defense and for the maintenance of the infrastructure.
All else can be done better through the private sector.
The Liberal Arts/Social Science/Disadvantaged Coalition values freedom of thought, creativity, tolerance and encouragement of diversity, economic equity and extensive cooperative governmental services. These services are expected to function on behalf of the disadvantaged, to limit the influence of intolerance in society, and to promote education and research.
Both groups value education and compassion for the disadvantaged but have very different approaches to solving problems and to administering programs in these areas. While these mentalities may be found more frequently in certain socioeconomic levels, they are certainly not limited to those and can be found in varying degrees in all levels.
Each group’s position is based on and energized by that which they fear most. Those in the Main Street mentality fear that if their values are not strongly adhered to the result will be chaos in terms of the dissolution of family stability, the weakening of the national defense, economic recession and rampant immorality.
In like manner, the Liberal Arts/Social Science/Disadvantaged Coalition members fear intellectual and moral totalitarianism, a lack of creativity in society, economic inequity and limited opportunity for the disadvantaged in the areas of health care, education, employment and justice.
The following steps would provide a constructive starting point for a conversation between these two groups:
1. The open and articulate acknowledgment of the extent and content of the fear by each group of the results of the policies of the other.
2. The acknowledgment by each group that there may be some justification for the fears of the other.
3. The third step involves each group attempting to convey that it comprehends the fears of the other without belittling or speaking with an attitude of condescension toward the fears of the other and those who hold them. Verbalized or implied lack of respect quickly causes the process to deteriorate in rigid polarization.
4. The fourth step involves a cooperative effort to construct programs and policies that recognize the potential possibilities of the fears of each while at the same time pursuing the accomplishment of the dreams of each.
Fear is a common experience of all of us. Let us respectfully converse together about how to stand with one another. We need our cooperative intelligence.
George Gordon of Overland Park for 33 years served as the minister of counseling and care at Country Club Christian Church in Kansas City. He has a doctorate in pastoral care and the psychology of religion from the Iliff School of Theology, Denver. He is a certified teacher of the Enneagram in The Enneagram Association in the Narrative Tradition.