Conventional wisdom, or at least current political behavior, suggests that disagreement is ‘us’ vs ‘them’.  And the ‘thems’ are either demons or idiots.

I beg to differ.

It’s easy to hate people or ideas that you don’t agree with.  It’s easy to dismiss them.  In fact it’s downright satisfying to realize how superior you are in your ‘right’ thinking.

Problem is “they” are you, just you with some different perspectives or priorities.

I worked with Andrew Young, civil rights leader, former U.S. Congressman, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN.  He was fearless in addressing issues he knew needed to be fixed, but I never heard him disparage anyone for their political views.

When he was at the UN, apartheid was still going strong in South Africa.  I went with Ambassador Young when he made an official visit to South Africa.  They anticipated the worse.  He was African-American.  He was a civil rights leader who had marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.  He represented President Jimmy Carter.

By the end of the visit, several South African officials  had commented on his ability to express his deep disagreement with their policies while clearly hearing and understanding their concerns and fears.

Demonizing the other side is easy.  Not speaking to them is easy.

But if you want to actually make changes, the ‘thems’ need to become  ‘us’.

Change means negotiating, empathizing,  compromising.  It’s a process that frustrates and challenges.

Change is messy and hard.

But in the end, change happens.