In 1865, as the bitter and bloody Civil War was coming to a close, the first Republican President Abraham Lincoln, days before he would be shot, said in his final inaugural address: "with malice toward none, with charity for all ... let us strive ... to bind up the nation’s wounds."
So often in life the smallest circles of our lives teach us valuable lessons, and show us direction for the larger circles of our lives.
What works at home is usually what is best for the community, and ultimately best for our country, and finally the world as a whole. Let us explore how the personal gives us a path for the political, and how the micro shines light for us in the macro.
The health, and ultimately the success or failure, of our intimate relationships is determined by the trust we share, and this trust must have a basis in shared values. Shared values are absolutely key to determining the joy in our personal bonds, gives us the trust we have and need with our partners, and those closest to us.
Yes, opposites can attract, and can have healthy and trusting relationships, but this opposition can’t be on fundamental values. Being opposite someone by race, income, upbringing, body type, education, introvert v. extrovert, faith or no faith, political ideology and so on, can bring expansion, broadening and excitement in our bonds.
In fact, the more heterogeneous our bonds are, the more growth we have as individuals. However, if there is an opposite on values, then it spells trouble ahead, and likely creating an unhealthy and sometimes abusive environment.
Do we share a common sense that integrity matters? Do we believe in the importance of honest communication? Do we believe that we must contribute to the common good and our community, or do we believe in pure individualism and to get all we can while we are on this earth? Do we believe all human beings should be treated with respect and dignity, or do we think some are "better" than others? Do we believe the truth can come in many different forms and a multitude of faiths, or do we think it is only in one path? Do we have a shared destiny and is the health of the relationship more important than what our egos get out of it?
These are just a few of the values that one can either share or not share with the people we are in relationships with.
The same is true, I believe, for the relationship between our political leaders and the citizens of America.
We must share common values between politicians and people in order to have a healthy democracy and a thriving Republic. Just as in personal relationships, we can have differences that provide the diversity we need to thrive, whether it is demographic ones or ideological ones. But we must share a common set of values if our country is going to succeed.
We can have diverse important identities, but do we have a shared destiny?
Do we believe integrity matters in our leaders, as well as the voters in their choices? Is the truth of paramount importance? Are we open to it? Do we believe in the common good? Do we believe all people should take part in equality and being treated with dignity and respect? Do we believe we can have differences of approaches on issues but treat each other with respect and dignity? Are we willing to change our minds if presented with facts counter to what we believe? Is the relationship/bond more important than personal gain or ego satisfaction?
My sense today is there is a disturbing lack of shared values in the relationship between leaders in D.C. and the vast majority of voters spread across the country.
Without these shared values, we lack trust in all political institutions at this time. This missing sense of shared values has created immense fractures and is at the foundation of the dysfunction in politics and governance, and has caused our democracy to be broken and unhealthy.
This lack of trust, caused by little to no shared values, like in personal relationships, spells incredible trouble for the continuing function of our Republic.
What must we do?
First, each of us as citizens must let go of the importance of our tribal allegiances, and spend time really understanding the values that are at our core. Let us quiet our minds and hearts, and pull back from the distractions of the external noise and clamor, and give some reflection to what those values are.
We must momentarily put aside the ends we want to achieve in policy, legislation and the courts, and surface the values within us that are most important. Once we are clear, then we are ready for a healthy relationship with our political leaders who also must share those values.
As one more institution slides into distrust in the aftermath of the disturbing recent Supreme Court fight, we must pause in the next few weeks and really understand the values we want in our relationships. And then come November, as citizens who believe in America and what it stands for, we must choose leaders who represent those values and who we must be in relationship.
This is as an important moment as any in our history to restore the bonds of a trusting relationship based on shared values. And like our personal bonds, it is going to take some time to heal after a trust has been broken.
We can do this.
We need to do this.
And we must move ahead with "malice towards none, with charity for all."