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COLUMN: Learning to co-exist peacefully

COLUMN: Learning to co-exist peacefully

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The election is over. Joe Biden is the president-elect. There are lingering lawsuits and claims of fraud rife with condemnation of any result that didn’t declare Donald Trump the winner, but that is smoke that will subside. Not from the prevailing winds of truth, but there is only so much oxygen left to propel the fires of baseless, fact-deficient accusations.

Now it is incumbent upon us to begin learning how to become a sane society. And that is not going to be easy. We are suffering from mass anosognosia, the inability to perceive the realities of one’s own condition. People are dying of COVID while insisting it isn’t real through their labored last breaths. We’ve given irrationality a platform and extremism a place at the table of reason. We’ve unwittingly allowed suspicions and fears to replace understanding and forgiveness.

Our dysfunction has reframed disagreements with emotional blackmail. In Georgia there will be a run-off between Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock. To influence the result, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said: “Every Republican needs to support Loeffler against a radical who hates the police.”

Here’s the position of that “radical who hates the police.” Warnock, on his website, says: “We need to responsibly fund the police while reimagining the relationship between police departments and the communities that they serve. In order to ensure accountability and build trust, we need to invest resources into the training of police officers and into building genuine bonds of community.”

Radical? Hates police? That is exactly how sane policy creates improvement in every aspect that supports police and the communities they serve. But if rationality and respect are branded as radical and hateful, how do we create a new paradigm for peaceful co-existence?

We can’t. Not if we continue to loosen the reins of rhetoric rather than embrace the demands of reason. Not if we continue our lazy attachments to untenable political absolutisms. Tribalism is an overused explanation for the allegiances that reject any opposition, but tribalism is rooted in our DNA to protect ourselves with associations. It isn’t going away. What we can do, however, is recognize our own anger and the condemnations we express and take it upon ourselves to do some homework.

This does open Pandora’s Box of ethics. Certain “absolutisms” are absolute. There is no middle ground between fascism and democracy, between racism and humanity, or sexism and equality. “There are good people on both sides” is a fallacy of cooperation. There may be neo-Nazis who are good at racquetball, but there are no neo-Nazis committed to human rights.

This is where the hard work begins. We must find ways to approach each other with new perspectives. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning.”

Gary Kroeger is a former local business owner and advertising executive in Cedar Falls.

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