Human history is marked with the corpses of disastrous pilgrimages of folly. I don’t know when our current march began, but it is becoming more and more obvious that we are now engaged in another march of folly.
In her book “The March of Folly” (1984), Barbara W. Tuchman offers us historical examples of such marches. To which I would add our Civil War that left 750,000 Americans dead. Many of her examples find the origins of the march in government “… because it is there that men seek power over others …” The excess of that power is the inducement to folly and the fertile ground for it is provided by rulers' and policymakers’ refusal to change their ideas and ideology in the face of experience.
Many commentators have asked the question, “What will the U.S. be after the McConnell/Trump era?” Our current experience evidences that we will be divided, tribal, narcissistic, unreasonable, filled with anger and pessimism — a broken country. Historians will describe our behavior at the beginning of the 21st century as a march of folly.
Two things have made humans what they are: their ability to act together and their mind. These two human characteristics are regularly prevented from use by what George Orwell in his book “1984” called “crimestop”— “… the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments … Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.”
How can we encourage a shared patriotism and encourage an end to this march of folly? Some suggestions:
If there is no will there is no way. Find the willing.
Things take time. Don’t give up.
Keep talking, but not in circles.
Dialogue and conversation, not diatribe and debate, build community.
Everyone is in opposition; you are the opposition to those who differ from you.
Leave time for argument. Respect the time dealing with opposition.
Argument is necessary, opposition is helpful. Engage in constructive arguments.
Keep your cool without creating a freezing atmosphere.
Make the person personal and the issue impersonal.
No matter what your differences, look for what you have in common. There is always something.
Revenge destroys community. Reconciliation grows community.
Act … together!
Nathan Kollar is an emeritus professor of religious studies at St. John Fisher College.