As we begin a new year together from the highs of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we must at least for a moment be caught up with the power of healing.
Healing of wrongs, healing of the past, healing of the society we live in, and the world we can build together.
We have the opportunity to construct something great together. But what do we do when our shared visions for all that can be done differ?
This is conflict in its purest form with the noblest of intentions. And in a community of our size, this type of conflict is inevitable.
So how do we go forward together without tearing one another apart?
Here is some insight which I have received when asking these questions:
The personal matters. It is that simple.
Labels are easy to hate; individuals as unique human beings are not. We make others of ourselves despising ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’. But constant engagement forces us to see how limited those labels are in reality. Somewhere along the line, we must learn to imagine others complexly. As complete beings worthy of celebrating even as we argue with their positions.
Difference matters too. It is easy to forget this.
The French thinker Claude Lefort provides a unique perspective on our desire to remove conflict. In his grand accounts of 20th-century totalitarianism as experienced in Nazi Germany and the USSR under Stalin, Lefort speaks of the need to create enemies on the outside. Totalitarianism is thus marked by a refusal to acknowledge that conflict in society is an inevitability. Importantly, the use of terror against these outsiders does not serve to defeat any real opposition, instead, it serves to preserve the illusion of the people as one.
It is not simple to handle disputes over values. It is far easier to simply insist that they come from the ‘outside’.
Sometimes this works, but we are weaker for pretending that this is true.
Our community, to define it, is not a country or city with borders, laws and public officials. Instead, we are forced to define the ‘boundaries’ for ourselves.
This is a task that is not done once but over and again through robust conversation, openness, and radical listening.
May we be richer for the conflict we face.